New South Wales coach, Brad Fittler, has praised Latrell Mitchell‘s selfless attitude after he ruled himself out of the opening State of Origin clash against Queensland due to a calf injury. The Blues touched down in Adelaide on Monday afternoon, and Mitchell underwent scans that revealed he had suffered a grade-one calf strain. However, the injury is not severe, meaning he should be fit to feature in Game II at Suncorp Stadium on June 21. Adding to a dramatic Monday for the Blues, reports emerged that star halfback Nathan Cleary was in doubt for Wednesday night’s game with an infected wisdom tooth.
Fittler laughed off concerns over Cleary and said “there’s no problem” with him. Fittler said Mitchell became emotional as he told teammates he was withdrawing from the game. “He (Mitchell) was very emotional, it shows where he is right now, he wants to play on the biggest stage, and it’s disappointing for everyone,” Fittler said. “It’s a shame we don’t get to see him playing State of Origin, but I’m sure he will be there for game two. We have spoken to Latrell, and if all goes well, he will be right for the second (State of Origin) game.”
Mitchell missed all of last year’s State of Origin series with a hamstring injury but may have recovered in time for Wednesday’s game. However, Fittler believed it was too risky. “There was a chance he (Mitchell) could have come down (to Adelaide), train, and possibly feel better, but he made the unselfish decision to allow Stephen Crichton to take his position,” Fittler said. “Stephen had been there all week (as the 18th man), and I think he thought that was better for the team.”
Crichton said he felt sorry for Mitchell to miss the Origin opener with injury. Still, he was excited about the opportunity to play on the big stage. “Really excited but still lost for words,” Crichton said at Adelaide airport. “He (Mitchell) just told me to back myself. He was heaps emotional, and I feel so sorry for him; he trained that good throughout the camp and just looked happy.” Fittler said he had no issues thrusting Crichton into the starting side after he played in all three games during last year’s series and won games for the Bulldogs in the NRL.
Fittler laughed off the dental drama surrounding Cleary and revealed that it was not a concern. “He has had it (the tooth issue) for months, so there’s no problem, and he’ll play, and there was never a problem that meant he wasn’t going to play,” Fittler said. “His tooth is good; he has that tooth (issue) for a long time, the tooth is OK.” Upon arrival at Adelaide airport, Cleary was spotted by the 7NEWS camera and gave a thumbs up, saying “I’m good” when asked about his infected wisdom tooth. Fittler was all smiles as he joked, “I’m not even sure if he has got the real tooth (truth) that is.”