Maguire’s super Saturday: Three games and 20 players who could make or break the Blues

This could go down as the most important Saturday in Michael Maguire’s coaching career.

By around 10pm, Maguire will be sitting at home sipping on a cold can of beer and hoping his key NSW stars have survived the final club round before Origin I.

No fewer than 20 NSW hopefuls will feature in three games, starting in Canberra and continuing in the Shire and winding up at Accor Stadium with South Sydney and Parramatta.

Maguire plans to watch the Roosters and Raiders live on television before making the short drive to PointsBet Stadium to watch the high-flying Sharks and Panthers.

There is a good chance Maguire will stand on the family hill at the northern end of the ground. Make of that what you will. He’s a bit old school and enjoys watching a game from behind the posts.

He will then probably head back to Maroubra to watch the Eel and Rabbits.

maguire’s super saturday: three games and 20 players who could make or break the blues

New NSW Blues coach Michael Maguire will have a busy Saturday night.

James Tedesco is the incumbent fullback and NSW skipper, but even he stopped short of declaring himself a certain start this year. Penrith’s Dylan Edwards has been nipping at Tedesco’s size tens.

“We’ll have to wait and see what happens … he [Edwards] is playing some really good footy, it’s a decision for ‘Madge’ [Maguire],” Tedesco said. “Whatever he decides, we have to back it.”

“Who knows what could happen this weekend?”

The five-eighth race is even more intriguing. Matt Burton nailed his final audition on Thursday night, and Jarome Luai is in action against Cronulla.

Luai and Nicho Hynes are a chance to be in the halves. Luai praised Hynes, saying: “His consistency, the amount of touches he has on the footy, the control he has on his side, they trust him a lot, so he has earned that [No. 7 jersey for NSW].”

Here are the 20 players Maguire will be watching:

3pm: Canberra v Sydney Roosters

1. James Tedesco: The Roosters skipper is also the current NSW skipper and has been in excellent form. Still regarded by some as the best in the game and has big-game experience.

2. Joseph Suaalii: Rugby Australia’s prized recruit wants to bow out of league with a NSW jersey, and his form warrants one. He is strong carrying the ball back and loves physicality.

3. Luke Keary: Has barely rated a mention in the Blues halves debate and has not spoken to Maguire or anyone at the Blues this year, but he also has big-game experience and could benefit from playing with zero expectations on him, especially given that this is his last year in the game.

4. Angus Crichton: Another big-game player who has returned to his peak form in the past six weeks. Can play on either edge as well as in the middle, has a big engine, and a lovely offload.

5. Terrell May: OK, so this would be a stretch, but May runs with purpose and has that out-and-out aggression that Maguire loves. He is raw and can deal with outside noise, which he did at Magic Round following news of his brother’s arrest.

6. Spencer Leniu: Has been in and around the Blues camp already and is like May in that he is young and a fierce competitor. The only question mark will be his lack of match fitness after a lengthy Las Vegas ban.

7. Hudson Young: The Raiders workhorse never disappoints, has worked with Maguire in the past, and has improved again this year on the left edge. He struggled to make an impact last time against Queensland and would no doubt love another shot.

5.30pm: Cronulla v Penrith

8. Nicho Hynes: He is playing with confidence and his kicking game is first class; ditto his defence and on-field talk. He will be the halfback. Like Hudson Young, Hynes has the benefit of knowing what Origin is all about this time.

9. Cam McInnes: A weapon who loves the grunt work. McInnes has leadership qualities, can play dummy-half or lock, and even on an edge if needed. He would play front-row if you asked him.

maguire’s super saturday: three games and 20 players who could make or break the blues

Dylan Edwards is knocking at the door for NSW.

10. Jesse Ramien: One of the in-form centres in arguably the best backline in the NRL. Ramien is aggressive and fast, and has that right-edge combination with Hynes.

11. Sifa Talakai: A battering ram being used off the bench who can play on an edge or in the middle or even centre. He also looks fitter this season.

12. Jarome Luai: Was close to the best on the field in a losing side in Magic Round. Luai seems to have matured, is a left-footer who has played with left-centre options Stephen Crichton and Matt Burton, and genuinely gets under Queensland’s skin.

13. Dylan Edwards: The Panthers running man who had his first quiet game of the year last weekend. His work rate is phenomenal. He carries no Origin scars and is similar to Tedesco with his 20-plus carries a game. Losing Nathan Cleary and that club combination could hurt his hopes.

14. Liam Martin: Should be our right-edge back-rower. Very tradesman-like, complete with the tradesman-like hairstyle, and never disappoints. He has been solid all year again.

15. Isaah Yeo: The players’ player. If Tedesco is axed, expect this bloke to be elevated to captain. He will be the lock forward, and somehow improves every season. His experience will be vital.

16. Brian To’o: Quite possible rugby league’s nicest man and one of the few already guaranteed a starting spot. Can play left or right wing, and has chemistry with Burton and Stephen Crichton. Is running for almost 200m per game again.

7.35pm: South Sydney v Parramatta

17. Latrell Mitchell: If he makes himself available, he would be an absolute handful at left centre. Mitchell loves the big stage and is a physical presence. Look at how many defenders he shrugged off to score in Magic Round. Each hit-up draws three and four defenders.

18 Keaon Koloamatangi: Has been off his game this year, as if he is almost lacking confidence, but gives you the option of playing on an edge or in the middle.

19. Reagan Campbell-Gillard: Keeps carting the ball up, is that big body, and still light on his feet for his size.

20. Junior Paulo: Used off the Eels bench most of the season, he has been solid without being sensational. He is another plus-size body and never buckles on the big stage.

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