Brad Fittler has been slammed for making his team selection for Origin II out ‘complete panic’ after a drastic overhaul of the New South Wales squad.
The Blues lost the series opener 16-10 at Accor Stadium in Sydney on June 8 and Fittler made wholesale changes to the squad that will take on Queensland in Game 2 in six days
The squad named by the Blues coach on Sunday contains seven new faces, with Jake Trbojevic and Apisai Koroisau back in the fold and Siosifa Talakai handed an Origin debut following a breakthrough season for Cronulla.
Blues coach Brad Fittler has rung the changes for New South Wales ahead of Game 2
Sydney Roosters second rower Angus Crichton is also been named in the 22-man squad, along with teammate Victor Radley, a surprise inclusion given he has not played since Round 10.
Talakai and Radley are joined by two other debutants in Canterbury five eight Matt Burton and North Queensland prop Jordan McLean, with Parramatta co-captain Clint Gutherson also in the team.
Meanwhile, Eels duo Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Ryan Matterson, are among the players dropped along with Kotoni Staggs, who made his Origin debut in Game 1, and St George forward Tariq Sims.
Tyson Frizell and his Newcastle teammate Jacob Saifiti are both omitted, while Jack Wighton, misses out after contracting Covid-19 earlier this week.
Jake Trbojevic has been named in New South Wales squad for Origin II after having been a surprise omission for the series opener in Sydney on June 8
But Broncos star Kotoni Staggs has been dropped after making his Origin debut in Game 1
‘If you lost one game by a converted try, would you make seven changes? Seriously,’ Daily Telegraph NRL journalist Buzz Rothfield told Sky Racing’s Big Sport Breakfast.
‘It’s a complete overreaction and it is complete panic.’
Speaking on the same show, Blues great Laurie Daley noted the major overhaul addressed a number of mistakes in the team selected for the series opener.
‘I probably wouldn’t have made that many changes, but what I would have done […] I would’ve had a couple of those players in there in Game I,’ Daley, who coached New South Wales between 2013 and 2017, said.
Siosifa Talakai (left) and Matt Burton are among the four debutants included in the squad
Rothfield also expressed doubts over the decision to include Crichton in the team, given the Roosters’ indifferent form so far this season.
‘The Roosters are outside the top eight, they’ve been playing like busters, they haven’t even registered his contract for next year, which shows how well he’s going,’ he added.
Fittler’s selections raised several eyebrows among Queenslanders too, with Gorden Tallis questioning his decision to drop Staggs and Corey Parker claiming the Blues coach had made his mind up on his changes ‘five minutes’ after losing Game 1.
Staggs has been in electric form for the Broncos this season, averaging 99 running metres per game and was one of the headline selections ahead of the series opener.
Roosters lock Victor Radley has also received his first New South Wales call-up, despite not having played for his club since Round 10 because of an injury
Radley’s Roosters teammate Angus Crichton has also been named in the squad
He failed to reproduce his club form against Queensland, but Tallis suggested replacing him with Burton was a risky choice.
‘I don’t think that they used him right,’ the former Maroons great told Triple M.
‘I tell you what I wouldn’t want to mark him. If I got caught out on an edge and there’s Kotoni Staggs in front of me or Matt Burton, I would dread having Kotoni Staggs.’
Like Daley, Parker believes the flurry of changes ahead of Game 2 highlights Fittler got his team wrong for Origin I.
Corey Parker (left) and Laurie Daley felt Fittler got his team wrong in Game I
‘I reckon Freddy made up his mind five minutes after game one,’ he told Fox Sports.
‘At no stage are they going to put their hand up and say they got it wrong, but they got it wrong – clearly. It’s strange the way it’s all unfolded for New South Wales, right up until kick-off in game one there was talk around changes.
‘Now they’ve changed all that again. I don’t understand how they get such a long time to come up with a team they want then they change it.’
Parker was particularly critical of the decision to include Radley (middle) in the NSW team
Parker was particularly critical of Radley’s inclusion, given the Roosters lock hasn’t played since Round 10 and was not expected back until Round 19 after undergoing surgery for a syndesmosis injury.
‘He [Radley] hasn’t played since Round 10. They’ve got to fill squad of 22 to take over and Victor Radley is no chance of playing,’ the former Queensland and Broncos star said.
‘If five players went down with Covid, Victor Radley still doesn’t play, they will fly someone over from Sydney to play and fill in. He’s not going to play and it just brings more spotlight to the group.’