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State of Origin, squad selections, NSW Blues team, Queensland Maroons team, Brad Fittler, Billy Slater, Selwyn Cobbo, Angus Crichton, Nicho Hynes, James Tedesco

The countdown is on as fans await the announcement of NSW’s State of Origin side for Game 1 – set for this evening – before QLD’s team is named Monday morning.

NSW coach Brad Fittler has promised ‘surprises’ in his 22-man squad, and that is set to include Roosters winger Daniel Tupou starting for NSW for the first time since 2020.

Blues skipper James Tedesco explained he wasn’t sure what the NSW side would look like, but endorsed Nicho Hynes’ utility value after his side’s strong 36-16 win.

Maroons incumbent Cameron Munster praised young gun Selwyn Cobbo who is gunning to be picked in Billy Slater’s side.

Meanwhile, Fox League’s Cooper Cronk has called for Blues coach Brad Fittler to pick Roosters forward Angus Crichton for the series opener.

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SHARKS STAR TO MAKE BLUES SQUAD AS MAROONS DEBUT THREE YOUNG GUNS

The Blues are set to pick Sharks star Nicho Hynes, while the Maroons will hand debuts to three young stars.

The Daily Telegraph’s Dave Riccio reported Hynes’ final spot in the squad will be decided after today’s games.

Meanwhile, Lindsay Collins is set to start in the front row for the Maroons and Billy Slater will hand debuts to Reuben Cotter, Jeremiah Nanai and Patrick Carrigan.

KNIGHTS BOLTER TO JOIN BLUES SQUAD

Jacob Saifiti is reportedly headed into NSW Origin camp after his brother and incumbent prop Daniel Saifiti was sidelined with a knee injury.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s Michael Chammas reported Jacob Saifiti is Sydney bound to link up with the NSW squad with the team to be announced tonight.

It is unknown if Saifiti will be used in the 17 or just as a back-up player at this stage.

Chammas also reported Daniel Tupou will make the team, Stephen Crichton will debut in the centers and Angus Crichton will miss out on the squad.

Liam Martin is also unlikely to be in the 17 unless injuries strike.

Chammas also reported Jake Trbojevic has been left out in a huge call by Fittler.

Jacob Saifiti is set to join the NSW squad.Source: AAP

FREDDY PROMISES ‘SURPRISES’ – AND DELIVERS BEGINNER

NSW coach Brad Fittler was asked on Nine on Sunday morning if there would be a bolter or two in his Blues side, and he replied “well yeah, I think so, absolutely.”

“There’ll be a couple of surprises.”

One of those will see 196cm Roosters winger Daniel Tupou, with The Daily Telegraph revealing on Sunday morning that the flyer will be named in the starting Blues team.

NSW have turned to 30-year-old Tupou to combat the aerial prowess of Selwyn Cobbo and 194cm Storm winger Xavier Coates, both of whom are likely to be named for Queensland.

Meanwhile, the Sydney Morning Herald claims Stephen Crichton will debut for the Blues after an impressive run for the Panthers.

Fittler added that he has spoken to wantaway Brisbane star Payne Haas over his dramatic week of contract breakdowns with the Broncos, and confirmed that the boom prop is set to retain his place. “He’ll put that (drama) behind him,” Fittler said.

CRONK CALLS FOR CRICHTON’S SELECTION

Rugby league legend Cooper Cronk has called for Brad Fittler to pick Angus Crichton in his NSW side for the series opener.

The 26-year-old has played for the Blues nine times already, including two appearances in the 2021 series win.

At the start of the season a downturn in Crichton’s form cast doubt on his selection, but after a string of strong showings, Fox League’s Cooper Cronk believes he should take up a bench spot.

“I think Angus Crichton will be there, I thought that was one of his better games, particularly that first half, he was tormenting Nicho Hynes on that left edge,” Cronk said.

“They were playing short to him early on and he was getting physical, and that’s Angus’ greatest strength.

“The thing that NSW have got going for them is they have a core group of players that have been consistently around the group for a long period of time, and that is why they have been successful,” Cronk said.

“Angus has been one of those players, he has got a bit of flexibility, he can go through the middle, has probably played some of his best representative football through the middle.

“So he is probably the perfect player to have on the bench to be able to have that.”

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TEDESCO’S HYNES ENDORSEMENT

Blues skipper James Tedesco spoke highly of utility candidate Nicho Hynes in the post-match press conference after his side’s 36-16 win.

Tedesco put in a strong performance to best Hynes’ Cronulla team, showing why he is NSW’s best option at fullback.

The 29-year-old was asked if Nicho Hynes was ready for the Origin arena.

“Yeah he came into camp last year actually and was around the boys, he is a good bloke Nicho we had a bit of a chat after the game,” Tedesco said.

“He has been playing some really good footy this year, so I am not sure what the team will look like.

“But he is definitely knocking on the door the way he has been playing, and he can sort of play anywhere in the halves or fullback or off the bench as a utility so it will be interesting to see.”

After Ryan Papenhuyzen was ruled out of the series opener, Jack Wighton and Hynes firmed as the two potential selections for Fittler’s No.14 jersey.

Wighton has Origin experience on his side, but Hynes’ season to date has been impressive, leading his side around the park and transforming the Sharks into premiership contenders.

Hynes also has incredibly utility value, having played in both halves positions and at fullback for his former club, the Melbourne Storm.

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MUNSTER’S COBBO PRAISE

Maroons incumbent Cameron Munster likened Broncos young gun Selwyn Cobbo to rugby league legend Greg Inglis.

Inglis was one of the most electric players to grace the NRL and was a dominant performer for the Maroons over a 32-game stretch.

Meanwhile, many have called for 19-year-old Cobbo to take a place on the wing for Billy Slater’s Queensland side — fitting a similar mold to that of Inglis’ playing style.

“He’s a freak and he’s playing with absolute confidence,” Munster said.

“I don’t like obviously comparing him to certain players but he’s got a lot of GI (Greg Inglis) similarities – left hand carry, strong fend, very elusive and very fast.

“He doesn’t shy away from the tough stuff and when you see someone like that not only doing the flashy stuff, he’s also doing the tough stuff, I’m sure he’s caught the eyes of the selectors for Queensland.”

Cobbo put in another strong performance on Friday night, scoring another try to notch ten four-pointers in his last six games.

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