After Brad Fittler overhauled his New South Wales squad for the Blues’ must-win State of Origin clash in Perth, debate is in overdrive at the pub, on the train and in the office.
The NSW coach made seven changes to his team that suffered a 16-10 defeat to Queensland at Sydney’s Stadium Australia in game one.
Parramatta pair Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Ryan Matterson were axed from the 17, as well as Kotoni Staggs and Tariq Sims. Canberra’s Jack Wighton was forced to pull out when he tested positive to COVID-19, while Newcastle’s Tyson Frizell and Jacob Saifiti were removed from the extended squad.
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The reveal of the squad for next Sunday’s clash leaves Wide World of Sports asking five burning questions.
Roles of the recalled
Fittler recalled three players in Sea Eagles inspiration Jake Trbojevic, Roosters gun Angus Crichton and Eels fullback Clint Gutherson.
While Gutherson isn’t expected to add to the three Origin appearances he made in 2020, Trbojevic is tipped to start in the front row and Crichton on the bench.
As Trbojevic has done relentlessly over his 13-game Origin career and throughout 177 NRL matches with Manly, the workhorse is a sure bet to chop down anyone that runs at him in game two.
He’ll also serve as an unofficial captain – not only on the field but off. He’ll be barking like a madman.
Crichton gives the Blues a potential replacement in the middle and on an edge – and the damage with which he storms onto short balls from the halves is immense. Expect the nine-game Blue to be testing gaps in the Maroons defence time and again.
Cook or Koroisau: Who will Freddy start with?
Many were perplexed by the dumping of Apisai Koroisau for the Origin opener in light of his brilliant work off the bench last year.
The Panthers hooker thrived in about a 20-minute stint in the second half of game three, continually challenging Queensland’s tired forwards around the ruck and even crossing for a try.
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Fittler is expected to use the Tigers-bound rake in the same way in Perth, but another option is starting with Koroisau and playing Damien Cook off the bench.
The NSW brains trust might want to give Koroisau as many minutes as possible on the field with his long list of Penrith teammates: Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai, Isaah Yeo, Liam Martin, Stephen Crichton and Brian To’o. Former Panthers teammate Matt Burton is also likely to make the run-on side.
Making sense of Eels duo’s dumping
Campbell-Gillard has had a rough trot in the sky-blue jumper.
He made his Origin debut in game one of the 2018 series, won by NSW, but was cut immediately after. The big-framed Eel returned for the opening match of this year’s series, only to again become a victim of Fittler’s ruthless work at the selection table.
Campbell-Gillard had 10 runs for 106 metres in the Origin opener, and he made 23 tackles.
Matterson had a mixed weekend, penning a new four-year deal with the Eels but also being booted from the NSW camp.
The opening-game debutant started on the bench and finished the match with 10 runs for 77 metres, as well as 26 tackles.
Four new faces: Will any get a run?
The Blues camp for the Perth trip welcomes four new faces: those of Canterbury playmaker Burton, Sharks wrecking ball Siosifa Talakai, Cowboys prop Jordan McLean and Roosters lock Victor Radley.
Will any of them play? That’s the question that beckons.
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Burton has played at five-eighth in his first season with the Bulldogs, but he spent most of his 2021 campaign in the centres for the Panthers. So hot was his form that he took out Dally M centre of the year.
The 22-year-old is likely to join Crichton in the centres in Perth.
Talakai’s bid for a NSW jumper received an enormous boost when he dominated the opening half of Cronulla’s win against Manly in round seven. He racked up 20 runs for 262 metres, as well as eight tackle busts, three linebreaks, three try assists and two tries of his own.
Things didn’t work out for Talakai at the Rabbitohs, but he’s transformed into a lethal ball-runner at the Sharks.
If Fittler doesn’t throw Talakai in the centres, he might hand him a bench spot. He can do a job in the centres and back row, and his X-factor is phenomenal.
McLean collected eight Kangaroos caps across 2017 and 2018 and is now gunning for a shot at Origin.
Trbojevic and Broncos gun Payne Haas are expected to start in the front row in Perth, but McLean could receive a bench spot.
The 30-year-old has been crucial to the Cowboys’ revival in 2022, piling up huge metres and proving pivotal in defence.
Put a line through Radley. The Roosters larrikin hasn’t played since Magic Round due to an ankle injury, so blooding him with no recent matches in the bank would take an enormous gamble.
Cracking the Addo-Carr riddle
The Addo-Carr snubbing remains a head-scratcher.
He was dropped for game one despite a breathtaking Origin record that had yielded 10 tries from 12 games and three out of four series triumphs.
Perhaps the former Melbourne flyer had had two quiet a run in Canterbury colours, but he struck back with a hat-trick as the Bulldogs thumped the Eels 34-4 last Monday.
The crowd favourite didn’t add to his try-scoring tally in the Bulldogs’ 36-12 hammering of Wests Tigers on Sunday, but he made a scintillating linebreak during the first half.
One theory for his opening-match omission was the aerial prowess of Xavier Coates, but the Storm freak won’t feature over the remainder of the series after succumbing to an ankle injury in game one.
Selwyn Cobbo will retain his spot on the Maroons’ right wing, and Cowboys weapon Murray Taulagi is tipped to debut on the other side of the field.
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