Rarely in the 42-year history of State of Origin football has praise made its way behind enemy lines.
But New South Wales coach Brad Fittler has given Queensland counterpart Billy Slater a nod after replicating his two-pronged dummy-half ploy for the Blues’ must-win clash in Perth.
“Maybe they’ve taught us a lesson,” Fittler admitted.
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After snubbing Apisai Koroisau for the opening game of the series, won by Queensland 16-10 in Sydney, Fittler has dealt the Panthers rake the No.9 jumper and demoted Damien Cook to the bench for Sunday night’s match.
It’s a counter-attack of the opening-game Maroons plan that saw Ben Hunt start at hooker and Harry Grant pull on the No.14 jersey.
“I thought the game might have been different, game one. We went with a couple of bigger players through the middle and … we just couldn’t generate much speed around the middle of the field,” Fittler told Nine’s 100% Footy from the NSW camp.
“They were very good, Queensland. I thought they were outstanding.
“Maybe they’ve taught us a lesson and we’re going to combat that. We’ll have some smaller men around there and see if we can generate some speed.”
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While Cook is set to forgo a starting position for the first time in his 13-match Origin career, Koroisau will get his first shot in the run-on side.
In Koroisau’s only NSW appearance yet, the former Rabbitoh and Sea Eagle had about a 20-minute spurt during game three of the 2021 series.
His inclusion in the NSW 17 for game two takes Penrith’s representation to seven, with Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai, Isaah Yeo, Liam Martin, Brian To’o and Stephen Crichton rounding out the rest.
Koroisau will also run out with former Panthers teammate Matt Burton, who’s been named in the centres for the Blues.
“It was pretty obvious we sort of got beat around the middle,” Fittler said of the Blues’ opening-match loss.
“With Api’s craft hopefully we can speed our play-the-ball up a little bit and bring our players onto the ball. That’s the mentality around that.”
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Slater addressed Fittler’s dummy-half shake-up in a cross from the Queensland camp.
“I’m not too sure whether they’ve tried to copy it or whether they thought it worked for us so they might dabble in it,” Slater told Nine’s 100% Footy.
“But, look, at the end of the day we know that Damien Cook’s an electric player. We’re going to have to be really on our toes when he comes on the field.
“Api Koroisau’s a different No.9 to Damien Cook. He’s got a lot of trickery out of that dummy-half area, so that’s something that we’re going to have to be aware of.
“Our middle forwards, especially when they get tired – they’re going to have to be concentrating.
“I don’t really look into why they’ve done it; I just look into what they’ve done and how we best nullify their impact.”
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