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Olakau'atu now mentally ready for NSW Origin debut

3 minute read

Haumole Olakau'atu admits questions over State of Origin selection would have rattled him two years ago, but says he is now mentally ready to debut for NSW.

 MICHAEL MAGUIRE. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Haumole Olakau'atu says he's now mentally ready to claim a maiden NSW State of Origin jersey, admitting talk around Blues selection had previously rattled him.

Olakau'atu is hopeful of being among several debutants named by Blues coach Michael Maguire on Sunday evening.

Sydney Roosters winger Joseph Aukuso-Suaalii is another in line for a potential debut in Sydney for the series opener on June 5, as is Cronulla middle Cameron McInnes.

Zac Lomax and Jesse Ramien are also hoping to have their name called out for the first time by Maguire, who is expected to announce an extended squad.

But few have come as close to a NSW jersey as Olakau'atu.

The hulking second-rower was in contention for a Blues debut in 2022 after a bumper start to the season, but was eventually overlooked by Brad Fittler.

He then suffered a similar fate last season, starting the year strong before fading ahead of the Origin series.

But the 25-year-old has largely maintained his form this year and is every chance of being named as a starting second-rower or bench player by Maguire.

"It has been (touching distance). If I'm being honest it has played with my head the last couple years," Olakau'atu said.

"But this year, I've really learned to just do what I could do for Manly and help my team get some wins in the season and just let my actions do some talking.

"If I do get the call, I do. If not, it's alright. It doesn't really bother me.

"But if you asked me two years ago the same question (about selection), I would have got rattled. Now I just try and go with the flow and do what I can for Manly."

Olakau'atu has spoken with Maguire several times this year, and believes he is now a better mentally and physically than when he first entered Origin contention two years ago.

"It's a bit of both," he said.

"I feel like my strength and physicality has been at a whole other level this year compared to what it was last year or the year before.

"And also just dealing with it mentally. It's been been pretty good this year, how I have dealt with it."

If picked, Olakau'atu would likely share edge duties with the in-form Angus Crichton and tried-and-tested forward Liam Martin.

Injuries mean there will be at least five changes to NSW's side from Game 3 last year, but many more are expected.

James Tedesco is expected to hold on to his spot as captain and fullback, while Nicho Hynes is under increasing doubt to play No.7, with a lingering calf injury ending his night early against Penrith on Saturday.

Jarome Luai is appearing increasingly likely to win back a spot in the halves, while Matt Burton is another option at No.6, in the centres or as a bench utility.

Apisai Koroisau is the incumbent looking to hold on to his jersey at hooker, while Jake Trbojevic has pushed his case to join Payne Haas as a starting front-rower in recent weeks.


James Tedesco, Brian To'o, Jesse Ramien, Stephen Crichton, Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii, Jarome Luai, Nicho Hynes*, Payne Haas, Apisai Koroisai, Jake Trbojevic, Angus Crichton, Liam Martin, Isaah Yeo. Bench: Matt Burton, Haumole Olakau'atu, Stefano Utoikumanu, Cameron McInnes.

* Pending fitness

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