Ahead of Game 1 of the State of Origin series, Brad Fittler hinted at who could fill vacancies left by injured players.
NSW Blues manager Brad Fittler has hinted that Cam Murray’s replacement for the State of Origin series opener will likely be someone who has played Origin before or been selected for previous camps. NSW.
In picking his utility player for the bench, Fittler said he would prioritize versatility, saying Jack Wighton and Nicho Hynes were the two favourites.
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Murray underwent successful shoulder reconstruction surgery this offseason, but after reporting pain in recent weeks, the Rabbitohs sent him on Wednesday for additional shoulder surgery.
He will miss 3-4 weeks of football and, like Latrell Mitchell and Ryan Papenhuyzen, it seems unlikely that he will be available for selection in the first game on June 8.
But Fittler said the Blues wouldn’t have to look far to find a solid replacement for Murray.
“Keaon (Koloamatangi) has been in our side, we have Tariq (Sims), Tyson (Frizell), Liam (Martin), Angus (Crichton), guys who have all been in side or played before,” said said Fittler.
“It’s such an important position. There’s so much pressure on these people, especially in defence. In the last four or five years we have always had very good depth, so that has helped.
Victor Radley, Dale Finucane and Ryan Matterson are among the other players who would fit the bill.
The utility role on the bench for the Blues is also up for grabs; Papenhuyzen leads the Dally M race after nine laps and had been seen as a good chance to trap the 14th jersey before suffering a hamstring and PCL injury.
Wighton and Hynes now appear as the two favorites to take the place on the bench, but Api Koroisau and Mitch Moses are among the other options available to Fittler.
Fittler said the more versatile the player, the more suitable he is for selection.
“It will depend on the composition of the team, how our bench is seated,” he said.
“I’m really aware that you need to be able to cover all positions with HIAs now and have independent doctors.
“I think what we’ve seen in games is that there can be a lot of surprises. It’s about being prepared for those surprises.
Wighton’s preferred position at club level is five-eights, but he’s also a capable starter at fullback, wing and centre.
Hynes, meanwhile, was the Melbourne Storm’s Mr Fix-It in 2021 and filled in at fullback, halfback and five-eights at various times throughout the season.
The race to fill Mitchell’s spot in centers is also on; Stephen Crichton, Siosifa Talakai, Campbell Graham and Kotoni Staggs lead the charge