MARK ‘SPUDD’ CARROLL: My picks for State of Origin teams

Mark Carroll
The Nightly
4 Min Read
It's State of Origin time and there are a few team selection issues I'd like to get off my chest, writes Spudd Carroll.
It's State of Origin time and there are a few team selection issues I'd like to get off my chest, writes Spudd Carroll. Credit: The Nightly

State of Origin teams will be named this weekend and I’m demanding the Blues unleash rugby league’s giant bald wrecking ball on those pesky Maroons.

I’m talking about towering Sharks front rower Tom Hazelton.

He’s a raw-boned 25-year-old who’s about the same size as that tourist trap in his hometown of Goulburn, The Big Merino.

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Hazelton sheds defenders like hairs from his scalp. He’s bald as a badger and being an old prop, he just warms my heart.

I’m sick of losing to Queensland and that’s why I’ve picked this big fella in my NSW team to play in Origin One on June 5.

Did you see Hazelton’s try against the Roosters during Magic Round?

It was in the final minutes with the game in the balance, a time when most front rowers his size are sucking in the seagulls.

But there was Hazelton putting his hand up for a carry and scattering the Roosters like ninepins to win the game for his team.

Helloooo? That’s an Origin play right there. The ability to overcome adversity and exhaustion to put your body on the line for your State is what the Blues badly need.

Hazelton fights for every inch and is also a great character. He’s a cult figure at Shark Park and I reckon Blues fans will embrace him at Accor Stadium too. They’ll cheer their silly blue wigs off whenever he gets the ball.

Sure there will be people reading this and saying “Spudd, the bloke hasn’t even played 30 NRL games yet”.

Well guess what? I don’t care. He’s in red-hot form for the Sharks and has scored eight tries from 29 games -- that’s an unbelievable strike rate for a front rower.

The other thing I like is opposition teams have had enough time to work out ways to stop him and they still can’t do it.

Hazelton could do so much damage working off our clever hooker Api Koroisau near the Queensland line.

I reckon coach Michael Maguire should put Hazelton on the bench, wind him up and watch him go.

It might sound strange given his appearance, but Hazelton is a hair-raising player who I’m sure Queensland would prefer wasn’t selected.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 18: Tom Hazelton of the Sharks looks on during the round 11 NRL match between Cronulla Sharks and Sydney Roosters at Suncorp Stadium, on May 18, 2024, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)
I’m sick of losing to Queensland, so that’s why I’m picking Tom Hazelton, writes Spudd Carroll. Credit: Hannah Peters/Getty Images

He’s one of five debutants I have selected for NSW.

With key players Nathan Cleary, Tom Trbojevic, Cameron Murray and Mitchell Moses out injured, it’s going to be a different-looking squad.

I’ve picked Joseph Sua’ali’i on the wing.

I’m sick of hearing Sua’ali’i should be barred from playing State of Origin — rugby league’s jewel in the crown — because he’s defecting to rugby union at the end of the season.

I couldn’t care if he wants to play full-forward for the West Coast Eagles.

We’ve lost the past two series and right now the Blues need to pick the best players to turn things around.

Another new face I’d pick is Zac Lomax.

He’s been killing it on the wing for the Dragons, but says his best position is centre … so let’s give him a crack there.

Bradman Best would have been my first choice to partner Stephen Crichton in the centres, after he did such a great job on debut last series.

But I wouldn’t risk picking Best after he went down with a hamstring injury against the Titans.

The halves have been a real talking point since Cleary was ruled out.

I’ve gone for Nicho Hynes at five-eighth and Luke Keary at halfback.

Jarome Luai was the other contender at number 6, but he bounces around like a pinball too much for me. I want to see him prove he can control a game first.

Penrith’s Dylan Edwards deserves a chance at fullback, but I’ve stuck with captain James Tedesco.

His combination with Keary will be hugely important. They’ve been fantastic the past few weeks as the Chooks have been piling on the points.

Don’t forget there are only 10 days of preparation. That’s not a lot of time to build combinations.

So, I’m a big believer in picking as many club combinations as you can.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 18: Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii of the Roosters runs the ball  during the round 11 NRL match between Cronulla Sharks and Sydney Roosters at Suncorp Stadium, on May 18, 2024, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
I’m sick of hearing Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii should be barred from playing Origin because he’s defecting to Union. Get him in the team now! Credit: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

My other Blues debutants are Sharks workhorse Cam McInnes and Haumole Olakau’atu from the Sea Eagles. He’s a powerful edge runner who’s been close to Blues selection for a couple of seasons.

I reckon that’s a bloody fantastic NSW team.

For the record, it was the boss who told me to pick a Queensland team.

Normally I wouldn’t want anything to do with that mob. Just writing their names down makes me feel queasy.

There’s no real surprises in my Maroons team. They’ve won the past two series so I don’t think Billy Slater needs to make any crazy changes.

SPUDD’S ORIGIN I TEAMS

NSW BLUES

1 JAMES TEDESCO

2 BRIAN TO’O

3 STEPHEN CRICHTON

4 ZAC LOMAX

5 JOSEPH SUAALII

6 NICHO HYNES

7 LUKE KEARY

8 JAKE TRBOJEVIC

9 API KOROISAU

10 PAYNE HAAS

11 HAUMOLE OLAKAU’ATU

12 ANGUS CRICHTON

13 ISAAH YEO

Bench

14 CAM MCINNES

15 JACOB SAIFITI

16 LIAM MARTIN

17 TOM HAZELTON

QLD MAROONS

1 REECE WALSH

2 SELWYN COBBO

3 HAMISO TABUIA-FIDOW

4 VAL HOLMES

5 XAVIER COATES

6 EZRA MAM

7 DALY CHERRY-EVANS

8 RUEBEN COTTER

9 HARRY GRANT

10 LINDSAY COLLINS

11 JEREMIAH NANAI

12 DAVID FIFITA

13 PAT CARRIGAN

Bench

14 BEN HUNT

15 MOEUKI FOTUAIKA

16 JAI ARROW

17 CHRISTIAN WELCH

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