Maguire coy on NSW Origin halves but praises Paps

Melissa Woods |

Ryan Papenhuyzen’s comeback from serious injury has NSW Origin coach Michael Maguire’s attention.
Ryan Papenhuyzen’s comeback from serious injury has NSW Origin coach Michael Maguire’s attention.

Refusing to be drawn on who will wear the NSW State of Origin No.6 jersey, incoming Blues coach Michael Maguire says he won’t rule out players because of their NRL team’s faltering form.

Cody Walker is the incumbent NSW five-eighth while a number of other South Sydney players including Damien Cook, Cameron Murray and Latrell Mitchell have been Blues regulars.

While Maguire appears to be casting his net far and wide, saying there’s up to 50 players in his selection mix, he hasn’t nixed any Souths players just because the Rabbitohs (1-5) sit last.

Cody walker
Cody Walker is the incumbent Blues No.6 but his Rabbitohs team has just one win this season. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

“Every team I’ve been a part of and teams that I’ve coached, I’ve seen players that might have been in a tough period through the season, jump into the Origin arena and they can play really well,” Maguire said at the State of Origin launch at the MCG on Tuesday.

“When you jump into the Origin arena you’ve got some of the best around you so it’s amazing how all of a sudden they can jump to that level.”

One player Maguire did speak glowingly about was star Melbourne fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen, who was on the cusp of NSW selection before suffering two serious injuries.

He has been a stand-out for the Storm since his return this season.

“I sort of left Paps alone earlier in the year because he just wanted to get himself back and playing,” Maguire said.

“It’s great to see what he’s been able to do and achieve with everything he’s been through, and that’s part of character that I’m talking about.

“A player that comes back in that sort of way says a lot about a person and he’s playing some really good footy at the moment.”

Michael Maguire and Billy Slater.
Michael Maguire and Queensland rival Billy Slater were all smiles at Tuesday’s Origin launch. (Con Chronis/AAP PHOTOS)

Maguire says the start of his tenure, replacing of Brad Fittler, is a “re-set” for the Blues but that doesn’t mean he will start from scratch.

The ex-New Zealand Test coach said he needed to keep experience in the NSW ranks, as they look to stop a three-peat of series wins by Billy Slater’s Queenslanders.

Maguire said he was meeting regularly with players to make sure everyone was on the same page.

“You’ve got to have experience … although one thing I’ve learnt through international football is that some players can step up to another level and some struggle, so it’s finding the right people who can step into this arena and finding the right balance.

“There’s not far between the talent, it’s the character of the player that I’m keen to get a good understanding of because building the character of the team is really important on where we are right now.

“I’m continuing conversations with players about performing well and being consistent.

“This next couple of months is really important for everyone available.”

The MCG will host game II of the series on June 26, with the first being played in Sydney on June 5 and third in Brisbane on July 17.