Rugby league immortal Andrew Johns says Brad Fitler has faced many “big decisions” about forming a New South Wales squad for the State of Origin II.
The Blues must replicate Phil Gold’s 1994 team record if they want to win the series, winning the remaining two matches away from home.
That’s after Queensland’s 16-10 win at Acre Stadium on Wednesday night.
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The Blues were forced to name a whole new center combination for the first game, with both Tom Trobozevic and Lateral Mitchell in charge missing due to injuries.
Mitchell is most likely to be included in the 17-man squad for the two games, although there are still doubts about whether he will play for the South before the team’s name is announced. The 24-year-old is currently in isolation after a positive test in COVID-19, but could take the field for the Rabitos against the Dragons in Round 15.
Injured Kotoni Stags will be the obvious candidate to pave the way for Mitchell’s early return, but it does create a problem for Fitler.
Both Mitchell and Jack Whitton, arguably the best in the Blues’ first game, usually lined up in the left center.
Speaking at the Wide World of Sports Immortal behavior, Johns said there was only one obvious solution.
“I don’t think you can remove Jack from the left center,” he said.
“So, can Latrell play on the right? They’re both influential left-handed players. They both run with the ball in their left hand. Jack Whitton is a left-footed stepper, right-handed fender. It’s lateral.
“You can play lateral anywhere, you have to make some big decisions.”
Johns said Mitchell’s fullback experience makes him a reasonable candidate to move to the right.
“The left-hander is dominant when Jack plays fifth-eighth. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Jack swing around and play more on the right.
“Lateral, when he’s playing fullback, looks just as effective on any part of the field.
“This will probably be a question with Freddie Latrell: Can you just play?”
Elsewhere, former New South Wales captain Manley flagged forward changes, including a possible withdrawal for Jack Trobozevich.
“I think Cam Murray might have to go to the middle. He started on the bench but then when on one end. Whether we were too big in the middle, the three of us there were really big guys,” Johns said.
“Whether Jack comes back. Jack does all those dirty things, harassing kickers, leading the line speed, cutting the boys in half.
“The best team I played for at Origin was in the early 2000’s when we had (Danny) Buders and (Craig) Wing.
“I think we have to think about having two dummy halves.”
Two matches in Perth on 28 June.
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