NSW insist their State of Origin attack doesn’t need a significant overhaul despite missing the scintillating centre duo behind two-thirds of last year’s tries.
Tom Trbojevic’s absence from the entire series looms as the most significant loss after his all-conquering 2021 season was highlighted by his great Origin campaign.
But Latrell Mitchell’s hamstring injury for Game 1 is also a real pain, given he was arguably as good for NSW last year with his power on the left edge.
Between them the pair were involved in 10 of NSW’s 15 tries in 2021, as the Blues piled on 94 points across the three games.
While Mitchell is some chance of being back for Game II, Trbojevic’s season-ending shoulder surgery means the Blues lose his ability to float and pop up as a threat on both sides of the field in attack.
The reality is no other players possess that kind of natural game and the Blues won’t try to replicate that with Jack Wighton or Kotoni Staggs.
But skipper James Tedesco says the new Blues centres can settle into the same spine set up without much difficulty.
“There wasn’t much structure to what (Trbojevic) did, Tom just roamed free and did whatever he liked,” Tedesco told AAP.
“So that won’t be there obviously.
“For our team it’s a big loss. He was the best player in the comp last year and the best for us too.
“But it doesn’t really change my role or anyone else’s too much. We still have to do the same thing.
“It’s not a be-all-and-end-all … The centres we picked are just more natural centres.”
NSW are confident they can find other points of difference in their outside men.
The powerful Staggs has become a resurgent force for Brisbane in recent months at right centre, clearly playing at his best with greater depth in the line.
Wighton already has Origin experience at centre and can bring a tougher running aspect to his game.
Five-eighth Jarome Luai is also confident Wighton can assist his attacking game, with the Raiders No.6 acting as an extra set of eyes and ears outside him.
“We’ve got plays that we want to put on those players,” halfback Nathan Cleary said.
“Kotoni has shown what he can do this year so we need to get him the ball in the right place.
“Jack’s has got a great boot, so having him and Romey (Luai) there adds another dynamic.
“You can do all the training and practice and whatnot but the game is always going to be different and as the game goes on and you adapt.”