Young ready to defend at centre as NSW back utilities

Scott Bailey and Jasper Bruce |

Hudson Young is confident the Blues have enough strength in depth to meet the Origin challenge.
Hudson Young is confident the Blues have enough strength in depth to meet the Origin challenge.

Hudson Young says he is ready and willing to defend at centre for NSW if needed, as the Blues insist they have enough utility value to cover injuries in State of Origin I.

Young looms as the Blues’ utility on the bench for Wednesday night’s series opener, in one of the boldest calls made by first-time NSW coach Michael Maguire.

A back from either team has spent time off the field in each of the last six Origin matches, with NSW left to defend Damien Cook and Nicho Hynes at centre last year.

The issue of replacing outside backs has become one of the key talking points in the NRL this year.

An AAP analysis of the first 12 rounds shows at least one back went off injured before or at halftime in 23 matches this year and did not return.

The more-impacted team has won only six of those games and lost 17, with an average scoreline of 22-12 against sides once they lose a back.

It is part of the reason Queensland have opted to put Selwyn Cobbo on the bench for game one, ready to fill any gap out wide.

Selwyn Cobbo.
Selwyn Cobbo will be ready to step off the bench to fill gaps out wide for the Maroons. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

Regular back-rower Young looms as the most likely option to fill that role for NSW, in a Blues pack big on minutes but low on utility experience.

“The movements are pretty similar,” Young told AAP of his potential Origin job. 

“I’ve done it before in club land and if I’m needed to do it I will.

“Hopefully no one goes down, but we train for it all the time in Canberra – and at every club. Players can play other positions.”

Hynes was similarly unconcerned, despite previously speaking about the difficulties of defending at centre for 12 minutes in last year’s series opener.

Shifted out of position, the Cronulla star missed a tackle on Cameron Munster, NSW lost the match and Hynes was subsequently dropped off the bench for game two.

Nicho Hynes.
Nicho Hynes was exposed defending at centre in 2023’s game one. (Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS)

“There are versatile players in the team,” Hynes said.

“You’ve got Cam McInnes, who can cover anywhere in the forwards and at No.9, then you’ve got Hudson Young, who can probably jump out in the centres. 

“Angus Crichton can probably jump in the centres, I could cover fullback if anything happens, and you could make Cam a service player in the middle. 

“Fingers crossed that no one has to do that, that everything goes to plan for us – but it’s Origin, nothing always goes to plan.”

The Blues are also confident the lopsided statistics from club football this year aren’t as relevant in Origin.

“The way Origin goes … it’s a high-quality player filling in,” hooker Reece Robson said. 

“It’s probably a little bit different a club level, where you might have someone out of position that’s not really confident there. 

“You get players at Origin level, everyone’s pretty confident to do a job wherever they get put. 

“If (Queensland) are too fixated on (attacking someone defending out of position), there’s probably other opportunities they might be missing.”