Blues sticking to ‘winning formula’

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 15: Damien Cook of the Blues, coach Brad Fittler, Dane Gagai of the Maroons and coach Kevin Walters pose during the 2019 State of Origin series launch at Bradfield Park on May 15, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

JUST under three years ago, the NSW Under-18s Origin team demolished Queensland 26-0 in their own backyard at Suncorp Stadium.

The captain of that team was Cameron Murray. In the centres was Nick Cotric. Payne Haas came off the bench. They were coached by Brad Fittler.
Last year, Murray described that particular representative team as the best he’s ever played in.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MAY 27: The New South Wales Blues pose for a team photo during a New South Wales Blues State of Origin media opportunity at North Bondi Surf Club on May 27, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

In what is a true indication of the NSW Pathways Program’s ability to assist with player progression, Fittler will blood Murray, Cotric and Haas in State of Origin next week at the same ground.
Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary has also done enough to hold on to his NSW State of Origin jersey.
Fittler announced his squad for game one on Sunday night with the Penrith halfback retaining his spot, partnered alongside South Sydney pivot Cody Walker.

2019 NRL . Digital Image Grant Troville © NRL Photos.

The in-form Rabbitoh, who will be making his Origin debut, was preferred ahead of last year’s series-winning five-eighth James Maloney after Roosters playmaker Luke Keary was ruled out following a heavy head knock in the loss to Newcastle on Friday night.
Apart from Walker, Haas and Murray, Canberra duo Jack Wighton and Nick Cotric are the other uncapped Blues.
Another player with no Origin experience, Wests Tigers forward Ryan Matterson, was named 18th man on Monday.
Fittler said he wanted to stick with Cleary after his efforts in the winning 2018 series. While he conceded the appeal of pairing Walker with club halves partner and 2016 Blues rep Adam Reynolds, the fact Reynolds picked up an ankle injury over the weekend, made the decision easier.
“The combination with [Reynolds and] Cody Walker could have been valuable but the cards fell the way they did and Nathan got the shot,” Fittler said.

☐ The Blues enjoyed the day at Bondi for the first day of their training camp. The 17-man squad features five debutants for the opening match on Wednesday, June 5 at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.

“I wanted to pick Nathan, I wanted to pick all the team from last year but it’s hard not to look at Souths and the way they’ve been playing.”
Second-rower Tyson Frizell sent a late scare through the NSW camp when he was taken off after a heavy knock for the Dragons against Cronulla on Sunday but Fittler was confident he would be right to play after passing the concussion protocols.
Cronulla’s Josh Morris last played Origin in 2016 but was recalled after playing strongly in Sunday’s game against St George Illawarra in Wollongong, replacing James Roberts in the squad which lifted last year’s Holden State of Origin shield.
Knights halfback Mitchell Pearce was unavailable after picking up a groin injury in the win against the Roosters on Friday night.