Latrell Mitchell’s emotional announcement that he would be unable to play in Origin I led to coach Brad Fittler turning to the Panthers for reinforcements. The Blues striker, who had tightness in his calf, addressed the team in private and made the difficult decision not to fly to Adelaide. The unselfish move allowed Stephen Crichton to step in and play centre. Crichton, along with Matt Burton, was called up to the squad due to Mitchell’s injury and Campbell Graham’s sternum injury. Fittler praised the heavy representation of the reigning premiers in the team, with nine Blues players having played for Penrith in the past two years.
Crichton had no idea about Mitchell’s injury, but he had informed Fittler earlier he was ready to play. Despite playing right centre in clubland, he will play left and go head to head with Valentine Holmes. The heavy representation of Penrith players in the team shows the importance of the club’s tough attitude and defence, Fittler said.
Maroons hooker Ben Hunt said he was surprised by the omission of Mitchell, but added that Crichton, who played in all three games last year, knows what it takes to win. Payne Haas, who rolled his ankle on Friday, assured fans he would be playing in the game.