Michael Maguire shuts door on NSW Matt Burton team switch on eve of State of Origin Game 1

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NSW coach Michael Maguire says he will not make any last-minute changes to his team, explaining that Matt Burton will remain the 18th man and will not play in Game 1 on Wednesday.

The Blues will be keen to start the series and a new era with a win on Wednesday night at Accor Stadium in Sydney after being plagued by injuries in the build-up.

Maguire has backed up Nicho Hynes at halfback after the Sharks star recovered from a calf injury and impressed in training camp.

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James Tedesco will play his 23rd consecutive Origin game, returning to the side days after he was dropped from the squad when Dylan Edwards suffered a hamstring injury in training that ended his hopes of a NSW debut.

The Blues had four strikers on the bench – Isaah Yeo, Spencer Leniu, Hudson Young and Haumole Olakau’atu.

Many, including NSW legend Laurie Daley, believed coach Maguire would make a last-minute change, benching Bulldogs defender Burton and taking either Young or Olakau’atu out of the game.

The Blues would be particularly at risk if halfback Nicho Hynes or connector Jarome Luai were to get injured.

When asked if Burton would be included in the team, Maguire said on Tuesday: “He is the 18th man.

“I’m really confident with the 17 I have. We have a really good plan and are training well.”

When Maguire learned that Billy Slater expected Burton to sit on the NSW bench, he put an end to any speculation.

“I have 17 guys lined up and they’re ready to go,” he said.

“We’ve sorted out all the combinations really well over the week and obviously there’s a connection with some players I’ve coached over time and I know what they’re capable of, so we’ve got to make some subtle adjustments to what a game can bring so we’re ready for it.

“I trust my team and this is the path we are taking.”

Maguire seems absolutely convinced that Hynes can play the full 80 minutes.

Blues icon Daley said on the radio last week: “I think they’ll definitely make a late change. I think Matt Burton will come in the 17th.”

Daley continued: “It’s a risk to go in without that all-rounder. I understand what you mean. When you look at the team – and I like the team – you try to be ready for any scenario that can happen. I would just feel more comfortable if one of them, either Olakau’atu or Hudson Young, was the 18th man and Burton was in the 17th man.”

While Cronulla Sharks workhorse Cameron McInnes can fill in for a few minutes as dummy-half, Maguire’s reliance on the bench with his four forwards could leave the Blues in trouble.

Last year, there were absurd scenes when Nicho Hynes sat on the bench in the number 14 jersey, but only played 10 minutes in center at the end of Game 1.

Meanwhile, Slater did not rule out last-minute changes to his Queensland team on Tuesday.

The two teams’ different approaches to player swaps are intriguing. The Maroons have selected two defenders (Harry Grant and Selwyn Cobbo) and two forwards (J’Maine Hopgood and Moeaki Fotuaika).

“We still have a bit of time, but we will make the decision shortly before kick-off,” said a cautious Slater.

“We have until an hour before kick-off before the team comes in and then it’s final.

“I know I have spent more time watching our Queenslanders than any other person.”

Queensland legend Paul Vautin disagreed with Cobbo being benched and advocated for 18th man Felise Kaufusi to be brought into the team.

“I’m not happy with the bench. I don’t understand why we put a winger on the bench. I think we’re missing another big striker,” Vautin told 4BC radio.

“I don’t know who is there, but Corey Jensen (Broncos mainstay) comes to mind. Felise Kaufusi is number 18 and I would have preferred him to the bench than Selwyn.

“I’m not a selector and I never will be, but I’m entitled to my own opinion. Forwards win Origin games. They do all the hard work.”

This season, the NRL has seen countless games where teams have fallen apart and lost because a backline player was injured early on, and it seems Slater wants to avoid that scenario.

“I just don’t know how they’re going to get Selwyn into the game unless he gets injured, which we don’t want,” Vautin added.

“It’s a bit like NSW last year, they benched Nicho Hynes (in the first game) as an all-rounder.

“He’s a guy who played fullback and halfback and they put him in the middle with 10 minutes to go. It looked like he didn’t even know where the middle was.

“We ran around him, made a try and he got picked on for it, as did ‘Freddy’ (Brad Fittler).

“The same thing could happen to Selwyn. I know he’s tall, but I think we’re missing a striker on the bench.”

Slater said on Tuesday: “Selwyn has been great. He has really matured over the last few years. He is a wonderful player. He can play a lot of positions. At the end of the day, you just want Selwyn Cobbo on the field.”

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