The Set Of Six: The Most Mediocre Players to play for NSW

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

Is it just me, or does anyone else think it’s not the least bit trippy that the fiercest rivalry in Australian Rugby League history, has been forged between two teams who form the physical embodiment of cockroaches and cane toads????

It’s just me? Yeah fair enough.

Anyways the SET OF SIX is back after a bees dick length vacation, because when it rains it pours and we’ve got to talk about Origin.

Amazingly despite being propaganda for Rugby League’s Garden Of Eden, Heaven On Earth and Promise Land of all individual accomplishments, State Of Origin has still thrown up some stinking players. So much so, that a regular SET OF SIX won’t be enough slots to do it justice.

That’s right this is a DOUBLE SET OF SIX with a twist.

We begin with the NSW Blues, the state and colour that spent most of our last decade as the sad sack losers, before Freddy took the reins and we started training barefoot.


The Forwards

Jamie Buhrer (2012: Game I) – 1 Game

Jamie Buhrer’s selection in the NSW Origin side, which came in just his third season of NRL, might be Ricky Stuart’s biggest coaching brain snap, and that comment covers A LOT of ground. Although fascinatingly, his selection wasn’t even the biggest talking point in the NSW side for Game I, 2011. That is because Michael Jennings was plucked from Penrith Reserve Grade, to play Origin.

There should be a Michael Jennings Elevator Award made in his honour. Anyways, the head geared rake (we’re back with Buhrer now) played less than 10 minutes off the bench, in his only appearance in Sky Blue. He gave Robbie Farah a short break before Stuart likely realised the game was actually close, and he shouldn’t have dared himself to actually go through with picking Jamie. It was weird then, and it’s hilarious now.

Tim Grant (2012) – 2 Games

If you were compiling a list of the greatest all-time SOO hit-ups, chances are Tim Grant is a not a name that would straight away come to mind. However, who could forget the vision of an adrenaline fuelled Tim Grant to surge into the QLD defensive line, off the Game II, 2012 kick-off, which was his SOO debut no less.

Big Timmy memorably sent one particular Maroons forward flying in the process. Who? You might ask. Well it was the legendary Petero Civoniceva of course. Grant may have only played two games for his State, but his legacy is written in folklore, and that’s more than I could say for some two-game wonders.

Tim Mannah (2010-2011) – 4 Games

Oh look, it’s another Tim. Oh look, it’s another Prop Forward. Oh look, its Tim Mannah playing State Of Origin football. Cue hysterical laughter. I really should not take the piss out of Mannah too much, because he will remain one of the nicest good guys in Rugby League until Aliens take over the Earth.

Nonetheless, this is a list about the most mediocre of mediocre NRL players, and I have been saving Mannah up for the Origin edition for one particular laugh out loud fact. Tim Mannah played in the 2019 Legends of League Tournament, a tournament for old retired players, whilst still under an NRL contract at Parramatta. That is the saddest but also funniest thing I have ever heard.

The Backs

Nathan Merritt (2013: Game II) – 1 Game

Nathan Merritt is a South Sydney icon. He may not be up there with the Sattler’s and the Churchill’s of the Redfern world, but he still belongs in the same class as the very best greats to ever wear the red and green. When picked for his maiden Blue jersey, many felt this was overdue since he had become one of the most prolific try-scorers of the modern era. At the end of the game however, Merritt was laid to waste and crucified for his awful debut.

It was not a GLORY GLORY worthy debut that’s for sure. Ok yes, he played bad, but blimey who else could stop Greg Inglis in career best form. It was always going to be a no-contest. After Origin, Merritt’s career never really got going again, falling out of favour at Souths to the point where the year after Souths won their first comp in 39 years, and Merritt wasn’t even picked.

Heartbreaking stuff.

James McManus (2009-2014) – 3 Games, 1 Try

There have been some truly shit wingers to play for NSW. There was a time where Anthony Quinn and Steve Turner were the best we could come up with, in the position where speedsters typically play. But the top of the pop has to go to James McManus doesn’t it.

The human embodiment of sleeping pills played his first SOO game in 2009, before spending the next three years in the abyss (a well-deserved three years). He then replaced Nathan Merritt for Game III, 2013, which is like replacing a pillow of thorns with a pillow of nails, before returning for Game III, 2014. May I remind you, that 2014 was the Blues first series win since 2006, and James bloody McManus was part of the side that got to lift the shield? May I also remind you Mitch Aubusson never played Origin but James McManus did.

Think about that.

Mitchell Pearce (2008-2019) – 19 Games, 3 Tries

Oh boy! I wonder what it would be like to be Wayne Pearce. You’re the hero of an entire Balmain fan base, one of the most respected and toughest forwards of the 80s, and the father of the most maligned played in NSW Blues history. Thrown way in the deep end in just his second season of NRL, Pearce was not ready to be the halfback of NSW.

Plain and simple, and he has even admitted it himself. In his 19 games, he has just a 31% winning percentage, and was constantly made the scapegoat whenever NSW lost with him as the No. 7. Thankfully for Mitchell, he kicked his demons to the curb in 2019, by returning to the Origin arena for the 2019 Decider to replace an injured Nathan Cleary, and winning his first series 11 years after debuting.

Bonus Edition in the Bonus Edition

NSW Blues 2011-2020 Mediocre XIII

Fullback: Matt Moylan

Wingers: Nathan Merritt and James McManus

Centres: Dylan Walker and James Roberts

Five Eighth: Josh Reynolds

Halfback: Mitchell Pearce

Front Row: Kade Snowden and Tim Mannah

Second Row: Keith Galloway and Tony Williams

Lock: Jamie Buhrer

Hooker: Nathan Peats

Did we miss anyone out?

Who would be in your Mediocre NSW Blues Set of Six?

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