State of Origin 2022: James Tedesco on cusp of outrageous NSW Blues record

As James Tedesco prepares to for a must-win State of Origin game in Perth, statistics reveal the Blues skipper is literally one step away from a Blues record.

He needs just one solitary metre to become the greatest running NSW player in State of Origin’s 42-year history.

Blues skipper and fullback James Tedesco has run for staggering 3306 metres in his 17 games Origin career since 2016 – equal first with legendary Paul Gallen, who ended a stellar 24 game career on exactly the same number.

Provided Tedesco can secure that last elusive metre – only injury would deny him – he will be crowned as NSW’s finest metre eater in State of Origin.

Even more remarkable is that Tedesco is averaging 194 metres each Origin game; the most of any player since Origin began back in 1980.

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James Tedesco is one run away from becoming NSW’s all-time leading metre eater. Picture: Getty Images.
James Tedesco is one run away from becoming NSW’s all-time leading metre eater. Picture: Getty Images.

When told by The Daily Telegraph about his impending record, Tedesco said: “That’s outrageous. I never thought of that. Wow. It’s cool to be part of some Origin history.

“There’s not many penalties in Origin and it’s a very fast game so you get a lot of opportunities from kick returns. The ball is in play for so long so you can rack up the metres. There aren’t many stoppages.

“It’s just how I play. I always want to take my opportunities and carrying the ball is probably a really big part of that and I’ll be doing that again on Sunday.

“There are so many other great players in the side so that does let me do my thing.

“It’s cool to be up there with ‘Gal’. I’m sure he will appreciate me if I can gain one metre on the weekend.”

Former Parramatta player Jarryd Hayne sits third on 3275 metres from 23 games with NSW.

Tedesco and Gallen sit equal fifth overall behind four Queenslanders – Petero Civoniceva (4065), Greg Inglis (3767), Billy Slater (3513) and Mal Meninga (3310).

Tedesco is currently tied with Paul Gallen on the all-time list, on 3306 metres. Picture: Mark Evans.
Tedesco is currently tied with Paul Gallen on the all-time list, on 3306 metres. Picture: Mark Evans.

First-placed Civoniceva averaged 123 metres a match. Fullbacks and front-rowers dominated the top ten placings.

Included in NSW’s top ten is current coach, Brad Fittler, who sits sixth with 2609 metres from 31 games.

“I enjoy the challenge of Origin, especially being captain,” Tedesco said. “I want to lead on and off the field. You can’t get better footy than Origin footy.

“It does bring the best out of me at times. For me, it’s about enjoying it and not wanting to carry too many expectations on my shoulders.”

And Tedesco is poised to create and celebrate another milestone.

Sunday’s match will be his 18th Origin – passing the great Garry Jack (17) into second place for most matches played by NSW fullbacks.

Tedesco must play four more games to become NSW’s most capped Origin fullback, that record being held by Tim Brasher (20).

Ironically, Tedesco, Jack and Brasher either played for the Balmain Tigers or Wests Tigers.

Slater, the current Maroons coach, holds the record for most games at fullback in Origin history with 26.

TURBO REVEALS HEARTFELT MESSAGE FOR RECALLED BLUES BROTHER

Michael Carayannis, Fatima Kdouh

In the corresponding game on the same surface in 2019, Tom Trbojevic took all the plaudits with three tries as NSW emphatically sent the State of Origin series into a decider.

But it was brother Jake who was the real hero, claiming man-of-the-match honours with a typically robust 73-minute effort that didn’t go unseen by the judges.

Three years on and the stage is set again for Jake to be the unsung hero.

Only this time it will be without Tom, who will pick up his phone on Sunday morning and shoot through a simple text with the words: “I’ve got your back”.

Tom will watch from his Northern Beaches home when Jake makes his return to the Origin arena on Sunday night in Perth.

Tom Trbojevic will send a message of support to brother Jake before his Origin return in Perth on Sunday. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Tom Trbojevic will send a message of support to brother Jake before his Origin return in Perth on Sunday. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

He knows the torment Jake went through after being overlooked for game one.

But Tom was on-hand when NSW coach Brad Fittler delivered the news that he would be returning to the Blues team.

“We were together when he realised he had a missed call from Freddy (Fittler),” Tom said. “He said he better call him back. Freddy called him before he missed out on game one so you could put two and two together why he had a missed call from him.

“He was talking right in front of me and I could see how excited he was. He was pretty pumped. He just loves playing at that level.

“I’ll give him a message before the game and let him know that I’ve got his back.”

Just weeks earlier it was a different reaction when Fittler called.

The Blues coach gave Jake the respect by ringing to tell him he had missed out on Origin I.

“You could tell it hurt him because he just loves playing for NSW,” Tom said.

“But he didn’t show it because he didn’t want to make it about himself. He would’ve loved to have been there in game one. He got injured last year after game one and missed game two and three so he was disappointed about that.

“He took not being picked well, he was as disappointed as anyone would be.”

Leaving Jake out also hurt selectors, with Blues official Greg Alexander saying it was the hardest selection decision made in a long time.

Jake Trbojevic will bolsters the Blues’ defence in Origin II. Picture: Paul Kane/Getty Images
Jake Trbojevic will bolsters the Blues’ defence in Origin II. Picture: Paul Kane/Getty Images

“It was extremely hard to leave him out,” Alexander said. “He missed most of last year’s series with injury other than playing 25 minutes in the first game.

“You join a family when you make this side. The boys spend a lot of time together and they grow really close. It’s never easy leaving a player out, especially like Jake.”

But the decision to not pick Jake for the Blues also hurt an entire state.

NSW missed the starch a player like the Manly forward injects into any defensive line, with a mountain of tackles and a relentless approach to the effort areas.

Alexander conceded the selectors made a mistake leaving a player of Trbojevic’s calibre out of game one and going with the bigger Reagan Campbell-Gillard.

“In review of game one, we need someone in there who can defend for their life, Jake is our man for that job,” Alexander said. “We lost the middle.

“There were circumstances surrounding losing the middle, but Jake is a noted defender.

“He is also Blue through and through. Jake is a good bloke to have in camp.

“In game one, we tried to replace our best front rower in Daniel Saifiti with someone who was similar in carrying the ball because Junior (Paulo) and Payne (Haas) were there last year.

“We tried to replace similar strengths and that was Reagan Campbell Gillard.

“This time we needed to go with Jake.”

Jake knows the seriousness of Sunday’s must win clash.

“We have to win, we’ve been working hard trying to get things right because we know how important it is for the state. We have got to turn it around, we don’t get a second now do we? There is no other option,” he said.

Come Sunday, aside from flicking him a text message on game day, Tom knows to leave Jake alone. And that is exactly how Jake likes it.

The brothers do their best not to talk shop unless they have too.

“I’ve been in contact with him all week, we’ll talk again before Sunday but to be honest it won’t be about football. We don’t really talk about footy … it’ll just be some brotherly chat,” Jake said.

Jake Trbojevic works out during a New South Wales Blues State of Origin training session at UBX Boxing & Strength on June 21, 2022 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
Jake Trbojevic works out during a New South Wales Blues State of Origin training session at UBX Boxing & Strength on June 21, 2022 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

The pair may travel to and from most matches together when playing for the Sea Eagles but do very little else together on game day.

“I’d never ask him to do anything on game day because I just know he is not going to do it,” Tom said. “He is very quiet and lays low just waiting for the game.

“I don’t know if stressed is the right word, but he gets very nervous and just wants to perform well and worries about that. He is set in his ways and takes a lot of care in the way he plays and about winning. That’s why he gets pretty nervous.

“When he rocks up on game day, you can see he is ready to play. He is playing the game in his head already.”

Jake is famous for the nervous energy he exudes on game day and during matches.

Much of that anxiety is borne out of a desperate need to win.

But two weeks ago when Jake was left out of Fittler’s side, the 28-year-old found some respite watching Origin I from his couch at home back in Sydney.

Jake Trbojevic, left, with Angus Crichton, Siosifa Talakai, Matt Burton and Jordan McLean. Picture: Paul Kane/Getty Images
Jake Trbojevic, left, with Angus Crichton, Siosifa Talakai, Matt Burton and Jordan McLean. Picture: Paul Kane/Getty Images

“I watched the first game with my younger brother. I thought it was a very intense game, it was good,” Jake said.

“I only get nervous and anxious when I play. When I’m not playing, I’m actually okay.”

On Sunday, it will be a different story entirely.

When Jake’s phone pings with a good luck message from Tom, his anxiety levels will be spilling over.

It will be the first sign, the first step, for NSW in levelling the series because a nervous Jake is a Jake that is ready to win.

Originally published as State of Origin 2022: James Tedesco on cusp of outrageous NSW Blues record

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