NSW manager Brad Fittler has defended his decision to make seven changes to his Blues squad after the narrow defeat in the State of Origin series opener, insisting he couldn’t afford not to ‘reassess’ for Game 2 against Queensland, who only made two changes. to their winning team.
Ryan Matterson, Kotoni Staggs, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Tariq Sims were all dropped from the Blues 17 which lost 16-10 to Queensland, with Jack Wighton (Covid-19) the only forced change. Jacob Saifiti and Tyson Frizell are also absent from the extended squad for Origin II, which will be played in Perth on June 26.
But Fittler said the only option after a loss was to change tactics, especially when the three-game series was on the line.
“When you’re beaten, you have to re-evaluate,” he said. “We don’t have a safety net at the moment. We went into the first game thinking in a way about how the game would go and what we could do, but that didn’t happen. not produced.
Fittler has yet to name his 17 but confirmed Matt Burton and Stephen Crichton will be a new center couple. The duo have only one game of Origin experience between them – Crichton came off the bench during a lukewarm display in Sydney.
“Jack Wighton obviously can’t play and I just thought about Matt Burton, with the way he plays [for the Bulldogs]”, Fittler said. “What Crichton does with Penrith is a great defender.
Jake Trbojevic will return to the 17th for similar reasons. “The way the game went in Game 1, I think we needed someone really defensive,” Fittler said of his decision to pick middle forward Manly.
Fittler explained that he dropped Sims with an eye for years to come; Sims will turn 33 in February and could choose to retire when his contract expires after 2023. “He has done a fantastic job for NSW. We really appreciate what he’s done, but we’re looking to the future,” Fittler said.
Fittler has repeatedly stressed the importance of versatility in the Blues’ setup and said the inclusion of Sharks enforcer Siosifa Talakai and Roosters striker Angus Crichton would help cover all the bases.
“[Talakai] started the season in the middle, played on an advantage and also played in the middle,” said Fittler. “He was unlucky not to make the first game. He’s someone we watched and we were very excited to watch him.
“[Angus Crichton] playing very powerfully right now. He can play in different ways, in the middle or on the edge, but I’m really happy with the way he behaves.
Penrith hooker Api Koroisau looks set to come off the bench, but Fittler said his selection did not mean the Blues had lost faith in outgoing number nine Damien Cook, who fell short of his best in an outfit hot and cold of South Sydney.
“It will be a tactical change, going in with two prostitutes,” Fittler said. “Between [Cook] and [South Sydney teammate] Cam Murray, we have great confidence in them. They have been part of this group for some time now.
For Queensland, recalled striker Jai Arrow has earned his redemption shot while Murray Taulagi will make his debut as the Maroons aim to seal the series in Perth.
Arrow’s Origin’s future was clouded after being kicked out of Camp Maroon last season for breaking Covid-19 protocols. The South Sydney workaholic was the 18th man for the Maroons’ Sydney win but was included as one of two additions to Billy Slater’s squad to play at Optus Stadium.
Powerful North Queensland winger Taulagi is the other change, the 23-year-old for injured Melbourne outfielder Xavier Coates. Arrow will replace Pat Carrigan on the bench, who is tasked with filling the void left by injured lock Reuben Cotter, whose Herculean 80-minute effort down the middle on his debut contributed to Queensland’s upset 16-10 victory.
Brisbane winger Corey Oates and underrated Gold Coast backrower Beau Fermor have been added to the extended squad, while Reece Walsh replaced HIA’s Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow in Slater’s only changes forced by injuries in stark contrast to his NSW opposite.