Stephen Crichton was an unexpected choice in last year’s State of Origin team for Brad Fittler and Greg Alexander. As a specialist outside back with no experience in the halves or at hooker, his place on the bench as a utility seemed uncertain. However, when Latrell Mitchell was injured, Crichton was a like-for-like replacement at right centre. A year later, he has impressed and secured a place on Fittler’s starting team in Adelaide, replacing the injured Latrell Mitchell once again. This time, however, Crichton will have to play on the left side of the field, which presents a new challenge for the player.
Playing on the left side is a different position for Crichton. He has not featured regularly on that side of the field with the Panthers for nearly three years. However, his familiarity with Penrith teammates Jarome Luai and Brian To’o, who are the boom box brothers charged with bringing energy and atmosphere to every training session, may give him an advantage. Fittler is confident that the understanding between the three players will convince him that Crichton is the right choice.
Valentine Holmes, who usually plays as left centre for Queensland, will be facing up against Crichton. Holmes typically occupies the left centre position for several series. However, he will be moved to the right side to confront Mitchell, who is now injured, which means Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow will face Tom Trbojevic on NSW’s right edge.
In terms of the team, Matt Burton, who has been parachuted into the squad as 18th man, is a left-side player and a natural fit to replace Mitchell. However, Burton has not been around the camp all week. Fittler hopes that Crichton may be able to step up, as he is also a left-foot kicker and can be used as an emergency option outside Luai.
While Crichton doesn’t have the same level of attacking options as Burton, he has been a solid performer for the Panthers and has the support of his teammates. His ability to play both sides of the field will be an asset as the Blues look to take on Queensland in the opening game of the State of Origin series.