NSW coach Brad Fittler is faced with one of the biggest selection calls of his five seasons in charge, as he must decide who will lead the Blues to an historic series win after their loss in Origin I. The injury to Nathan Cleary in the early stages of Penrith’s 24-16 defeat of St George Illawarra has thrown up a huge dilemma for the Blues. Nicho Hynes, considered to be the next in line, could be selected for his starting Origin debut, but other big match experienced players such as Mitchell Moses, Matt Burton and Adam Reynolds are also being considered as options.
After the Blues’ 26-18 loss in the opening game of the State of Origin series, they need to become the first NSW team since the three-match concept began in 1982 to bounce back from defeat in the opening game and clinch the series by winning Origin II in Brisbane and a decider.
While Hynes is a rookie to the Origin series, he has not only risen to every challenge he’s faced since joining the Sharks last season, but thrived. Reynolds’ experience, knowledge of Suncorp Stadium and a possible combination with former Rabbitohs halves partner Cody Walker could be an option. Burton also played in Penrith’s 2021 premiership triumph against Souths, while Moses, who was one of the most sought after players on the NRL transfer market, has big match experience.
Fittler faces another decision about how to use Hynes and will spend the next week deciding whether to call him up as the automatic next choice or go with an alternative option. Luai and hooker Api Koroisau, who performed strongly for NSW in Adelaide, may be a tough call on Fittler’s part, but they were chosen for their relationship with Cleary in the Penrith side that featured in the past three grand finals.
The return of Latrell Mitchell from a calf strain has prompted suggestions that Walker could be selected alongside him at five-eighth, with Reynolds to call the shots at halfback and Damien Cook to be recalled as hooker. The Blues could look to build on combinations that have been established in the past and stick with a Panthers influenced team structure.
No matter who is chosen by Fittler, it’s set to be a tough match against the Maroons, who are determined to fight back after their loss in Game 1.