The NSW Blues are in danger of suffering a State of Origin whitewash. Their hopes of avoiding this embarrassing outcome have been dealt a blow with two key players set to miss the third and final game on July 12. Coach Brad Fittler will announce his team on Monday, but will now need to find replacements for the injured stars. Tom Trbojevic is definitely out, while there are false rumors of a hamstring injury for Payne Haas, who actually has an ankle injury. Haas’ absence is a major concern for the Blues, as his position in the side has been solid for years.
The injury to Haas occurred during the Brisbane Broncos‘ win over the Dolphins on Saturday, casting serious doubt on his availability for the third Origin game. The Blues will anxiously await medical updates from the Broncos on the severity of his hamstring strain. In addition to Haas, South Sydney‘s Campbell Graham has also been ruled out due to a sternum injury. Graham was expected to fill in for the injured Trbojevic.
Canterbury’s Matt Burton now has a golden opportunity to stake his claim for a spot in the Origin squad, with Graham’s withdrawal leaving the door open. Reports suggest that Cronulla Sharks‘ Siosifa Talakai is also being considered for a call-up to the Blues squad. If Haas is unable to play, it may open the door for Penrith Panthers prop Spencer Leniu to make his Origin debut. Leniu is believed to be the frontrunner, ahead of Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Daniel Saifiti.
The absence of Trbojevic, Nathan Cleary, and Latrell Mitchell, in addition to the potential loss of Haas and Graham, severely hampers the Blues’ chances of claiming a win in the series. Throughout State of Origin history, there have been seven whitewashes, with Queensland holding a 4-3 advantage. If Queensland manages to secure a 3-0 series win, it will be a bitter end to Fittler’s time as coach. The last time Queensland achieved a whitewash was in 2010, which led to the replacement of Blues coach Craig Bellamy with Ricky Stuart the following year.
In the list of previous 3-0 whitewashes, NSW achieved this feat in 1986, 1996, and 2000, while Queensland did so in 1988, 1989, 1995, and 2010.