State of Origin II is fast approaching, and New South Wales coach Brad Fittler is under pressure to make changes to his team after a disappointing loss in the opening game of the series. However, rugby league legend Phil Gould has urged Fittler to resist making mass changes and to stick with the players chosen for the first game, despite the risk to his own future as coach.
Up to six players are under pressure to retain their spots, including debutants Tevita Pangai jnr and Hudson Young, who made errors in their first Origin match. Josh Addo-Carr looked short of match fitness, Tom Trbojevic suffered a concussion, and Nicho Hynes received little game time while playing out of position in the centres. Some pundits have even suggested that captain James Tedesco should be sacked after his worst performance at interstate level.
Gould, who is the Blues’ most successful coach, believes that Fittler should stick with the tried and true players for the Suncorp Stadium encounter. He warns that it is not a place for rookies or experimenting with the team, as Queensland’s record on home turf is impressive. Gould suggests that changing the team now would only make preparation for game two more difficult.
Fittler has reportedly acknowledged that his job is on the line if he loses the next game, but Gould advises him to pick a team that he can lose with if necessary. He should focus on choosing players who want to play for his coaching reputation and who have the experience to handle the hostile environment. Gould believes that Fittler will go down with the ship and stick with the players who got him there.
Despite critics suggesting otherwise, Gould has faith in Tedesco’s ability and expects him to retain his place as captain. The Roosters fullback made over 200 metres in the game, although he was caught out of position for the opening try and outleaped by club teammate Lindsay Collins for the final try. Gould believes that with a different focus in attack, Tedesco can still be effective and help bridge the gap in the series.