NSW Blues, squad, squad, selection, Jake Trbojevic, Matt Burton, Apisai Koroisau


After Brad Fittler reshuffled his New South Wales squad for the Blues’ unmissable clash against the State of Origin in Perth, the debate is boiling in the pub, on the train and in the office.

The NSW manager has made seven changes to his side which suffered a 16-10 loss to Queensland at Sydney’s Stadium Australia in the opener.

Parramatta pair Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Ryan Matterson were kicked out of 17, along with Kotoni Staggs and Tariq Sims. Canberra’s Jack Wighton was forced out when he tested positive for COVID-19, while Newcastle’s Tyson Frizell and Jacob Saifiti were dropped from the extended squad.

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The squad reveal for next Sunday’s clash leaves Wide World of Sports asking five burning questions.

Roles of the recalled

Fittler recalled three players in the Sea Eagles inspiration Jake Trbojevic, Roosters cannon Angus Crichton and Eels fullback Clint Gutherson.

While Gutherson isn’t expected to add to the three Origin appearances he’s made in 2020, Trbojevic is expected to start at No. 1 and Crichton on the bench.

As Trbojevic has done relentlessly throughout his 13-game Origin career and throughout 177 NRL games with Manly, the workaholic is a sure bet to take down anyone running towards him in the second. match.

He will also serve as an unofficial captain – not just on the pitch but off it. He will bark like crazy.

Crichton gives the Blues a potential replacement in the middle and on an edge – and the damage he rushes with on short balls from the halves is immense. Expect the nine-game Blues to test the shortcomings of the Maroons defense again and again.

Cook or Koroisau: who will Freddy start with?

Many were puzzled by the dumping of Apisai Koroisau for Origin’s opener in light of his brilliant work on the bench last year.

The Panthers hooker thrived for around 20 minutes in the second half of Game 3, continually challenging Queensland’s weary forwards around the ruck and even crossing for a try.

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Fittler is expected to use the Tigers-bound rake similarly in Perth, but another option is to start with Koroisau and play Damien Cook off the bench.

The NSW masterminds trust might want to give Koroisau as many minutes as possible on the pitch 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 expected to be in the lead group.

Koroisau joins the NSW Blues team

Making sense of duo Eels dumping

Campbell-Gillard had a hard trot in the sky blue sweater.

He made his Origin debut in the first game of the 2018 series, won by NSW, but was cut immediately afterwards. The big-framed eel returned for the opener of this year’s series, only to once again fall victim to Fittler’s ruthless work at the draft table.

Campbell-Gillard had 10 points for 106 yards in Origin’s opener and he had 23 tackles.

Matterson had a mixed weekend, signing a new four-year contract with the Eels but also being kicked out of the NSW camp.

The opener debutant started on the bench and finished the game with 10 carries for 77 yards, as well as 26 tackles.

Four new faces: will any of them 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? This is the question that arises.

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Burton played five-eights in his first season with the Bulldogs, but he has spent most of his 2021 campaign in centers for the Panthers. His form was so hot that he took out the Dally M center of the year.

The 22-year-old is expected to join Crichton in Perth centers.

Talakai’s bid for an NSW jumper received a huge boost when he topped the first half of Cronulla’s win over Manly in the seventh round. He had 20 points from 262 yards, as well as eight tackle jumps, three line breaks, three assists and two tries.

Things didn’t work out for Talakai at the Rabbitohs, but he turned into a deadly ball runner at the Sharks.

If Fittler doesn’t launch Talakai in crosses, he could give him a place on the bench. He can do a job at center and fullback, and his X-factor is phenomenal.

McLean won eight Kangaroos caps in 2017 and 2018 and is now aiming for a shot at Origin.

Trbojevic and Broncos shooting guard Payne Haas are expected to start No. 1 in Perth, but McLean could receive a spot on the bench.

The 30-year-old has played a crucial role in the Cowboys’ 2022 revival, racking up huge yards and proving essential on defense.

Put a line through Radley. The Roosters’ Larrikin hasn’t played since Magic Round due to an ankle injury, so bleeding him without recent games in the bank would take a huge gamble.

Solve the Addo-Carr puzzle

Addo-Carr’s snob remains a puzzle.

He was dropped for Game 1 despite a jaw-dropping Origin record that yielded 10 tries in 12 games and three out of four Series Triumphs.

Perhaps the former Melbourne flier had two quiet runs in Canterbury colors but he fought back with a hat-trick as the Bulldogs beat the Eels 34-4 last Monday.

The crowd favorite didn’t add to his try tally in the Bulldogs’ 36-12 hammering of the Wests Tigers on Sunday, but he did make a scintillating line break during the first half.

One theory for his omission from the opener was the aerial prowess of Xavier Coates, but the monster Storm won’t feature on the rest of the series after succumbing to an ankle injury in the opener.

Selwyn Cobbo will retain his spot on the Maroons’ right wing, and Cowboys weapon Murray Taulagi is set to make his debut on the other side of the court.

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