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Origin II predicted teams: Fittler fuming over Api's bad break as judiciary makes Tino call, another Blues hopeful goes down

9th June, 2023
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9th June, 2023
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Brad Fittler is fuming over the incident which left NSW hooker Api Koroisau‘s jaw with a badly broken jaw and took aim at Maroons forward Tino Fa’asuamaleaui for his reckless style, saying he “flies very close to the line” whle pointing to a similar recent clash with Reed Mahoney.

But the match review committee has cleared the Titans skipper of any wrongdoing with no charges laid on Friday morning despite Koroisau reeling out of the tackle during the Wests Tigers’ loss to the Gold Coast on Thursday night.

He was taken to hospital for treatment and will be sidelined for at least six weeks with Souths veteran Damien Cook all but certain to regain the No.9 jersey for Origin II.

Fittler was already facing the biggest call of his NSW coaching career in deciding who replaces Nathan Cleary after his hamstring tear while on Penrith duty on Sunday night but a bad situation is now even worse after Queensland stormed home to win the series opener 26-18 last week in Adelaide.

To add injury to insult, five-eighth contender Cody Walker has been ruled out of South Sydney’s team to play the Dragons on Saturday due to a thigh injury but coach Jason Demetriou said he was “every chance of being available” for Origin on June 21.

Fittler was incensed by the Fa’asuamaleaui incident. “It’s interesting Tino talking about it’s a contact game and he got the better of Api there but also there’s due diligence. It’s a contact game but if it was just contact then it could get very dangerous out there and there’d be a lot of injuries,” he said on Nine after the Titans skipper levelled out Koroisau. “It’s the second time he’s done it to a hooker, he knocked out Reed Mahoney a couple of weeks ago.

“He flies very close to the line with his tackling as well. It’s spectacular at times so you don’t want to take it completely out of the game but there’s plenty of times where he doesn’t wrap his arm around either.

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“It’s a contact game, but there’s also a duty of care as well.”

Fittler and Maroons coach Billy Slater will announce their game-two line-ups on Monday after Round 15 and the Queenslanders will now only need to find two new forwards to replace injured duo Tom Gilbert and Jai Arrow with Fa’asuamaleaui having no case to answer. He had been placed on report for making contact with his ball-carrying arm in the tackle.

“It is a contact sport. I am running as hard as I can. He is getting up to try and stop me and came off second best. I am hoping he is alright and I am hoping I am alright too,” he said after the game, while also claiming journalists were making too much of the hit.

“I think it is the media making me more worried than anything just building it up.”

Maroons assistant coach Cameron Smith added he was “trying to find what is illegal about the action” as he viewed the replays in his role as Nine analyst.

“If you actually see the bump which he makes on Api Koroisau, it is with his ball-carrying arm … his right arm. Whereas you look at the last time he was charged, a few weeks ago, and it was when he led with his left arm into Reed Mahoney.

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

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“I don’t know what he is meant to do with that ball-carrying arm. Is he meant to make it disappear?”

The match review committee cleared Fa’asuamaleaui, who had already been found guilty of two offences this season – paying a $1500 fine for a shoulder charge in Round 3 and $1800 for the Mahoney dangerous contact in Round 12.

NSW are also keeping an eye on star trio Cody Walker (thigh), Cameron Murray (groin) and Latrell Mitchell (calf) while Fittler is under pressure to drop debutant forwards Tevita Pangai jnr and Hudson Young after they made crucial errors in the series opener.

Tom Trbojevic has been given a clearance to play in Round 15 for Manly after proving he was not concussed on NSW duty.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 13: Brad Fittler head coach of the Blues looks on from the sideline during game three of the State of Origin Series between the Queensland Maroons and the New South Wales Blues at Suncorp Stadium on July 13, 2022 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Brad Fittler. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Mitchell is a doubtful proposition for Origin II, according to Demetriou while Walker should be fine, if selected amid plenty of conjecture around five-eighth Jarome Luai keeping his spot after a hot-and-cold performance in Origin I.

“It’s an injury that’s really short-term. It’s only happened a couple of days before the game so we’re not in a position to risk him but Origin’s not for nearly two weeks,” Demetriou said on Friday about Walker. “For us, we know he’ll be back for the game after the bye (in round 16), which is only a few days after Origin.

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“(Mitchell) is in a good place, physios are working overtime with him as well to give him every chance to be available. If he’s able to run, he’ll be ready to go. I’d love to see him out there. It’s one of those injuries where every couple of days makes a big difference, when you’ve got a low-grade. We’ll see how he responds. Cam Murray is the same.”

Slater said the loss of Gilbert, who has been sidelined for the rest of the year, and Arrow, who won’t play again in the series, was more significant than a lot of people would suspect. 

“That’s a big blow for us because they’re an integral part of the Queensland State of Origin team. They were last year and they have been for game one this year,” he said on his Nine podcast.

“I know there’s a whole heap of stories and headlines around Nathan Cleary, but these two guys are just as important to us as a Nathan Cleary and Cameron Murray is for NSW. Whoever jumps into their spot have got some big shoes to fill.”

Here’s how the two states are shaping up heading into the June 21 showdown at Suncorp Stadium.

NSW Origin I team

1 James Tedesco
2 Brian To’o
3 Stephen Crichton
4 Tom Trbojevic
5 Josh Addo-Carr
6 Jarome Luai
7 Nathan Cleary
8 Tevita Pangai jnr
9 Api Koroisau
10 Payne Haas
11 Tyson Frizell
12 Hudson Young
13 Isaah Yeo
Interchange
14 Junior Paulo
15 Cameron Murray
16 Liam Martin
17 Nicho Hynes
18 Matt Burton
19 Stefano Utoikamanu

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Blues spine: Hynes is the frontrunner to replace Cleary in the No.7 jersey although Eels playmaker Mitchell Moses and Broncos veteran Adam Reynolds have greater experience at Origin level than the Dally M player of the year.

The Cronulla star was only given 12 minutes in his Origin debut at the end of the match at right centre when Trbojevic was rubbed out by a Tom Flegler high shot and came up with a missed tackle on Cameron Munster which led to Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow’s match-winning try. 

Hynes is undoubtedly the form halfback in the NRL after Cleary but it will be a huge ask for him to lead the Blues to victory in the Suncorp cauldron in his starting debut.

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 31: Nicholas Hynes of the Blues looks dejected during game one of the 2023 State of Origin series between the Queensland Maroons and New South Wales Blues at Adelaide Oval on May 31, 2023 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Nicho Hynes. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Cody Walker was shaping as an option at five-eighth if Luai is not viewed as the ideal halves partner with Cleary out but Fittler has continually been loyal to the Penrith pivot. He came up with two try assists for the Blues in Adelaide but his kicking game was again almost non-existent. 

“I’m confident in myself and I thought I did my job last game,” Luai told reporters after Penrith’s Sunday night win over the Dragons, indicating his preference was to combine with Hynes. “Rugby league’s a weird game, you just always need to be ready and when you’re called upon you need to do a good job.

“I’ll be ready if he calls upon me again. We’ve got a guy like Nicho there with a Dally M, he’s been in camp for the last two State of Origin series and he’s ready for it.”

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Walker missing his Origin audition against the Dragons on Saturday at Kogarah will hurt his chances of a recall.

Fittler will bring Cook back in at hooker to replace Koroisau after the Wests Tigers rake suffered a badly broken jaw against the Titans. Matt Burton is a strong chance to become the bench utility after he was a late inclusion in the Adelaide extended squad.

Cronulla’s Blayke Brailey was in the extended squad for game one but as a way of getting him used to Blues camp.

At least Tedesco roared back to his best at club level for the Roosters on Sunday after a sub-par outing in the Blues’ eight-point loss.

Outside backs: Trbojevic has again been under a cloud, this time due to the head knock he copped in Origin. He was cleared on Tuesday to be allowed to play for the Sea Eagles this Friday against the Dolphins after Manly’s chief medical officer, Dr Paul Bloomfield, convinced the NRL that he had not suffered a concussion in the tackle which led to Tom Flegler being sin-binned.

Mitchell will not be able to make a return from the calf problem which forced him out of NSW duty when South Sydney take on the Dragons this Saturday so if the Blues pick him, it will be on the back of no matches for three weeks.

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 31: Tom Trbojevic and Nathan Cleary of the Blues walk off the field after losing game one of the 2023 State of Origin series between the Queensland Maroons and New South Wales Blues at Adelaide Oval on May 31, 2023 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Tom Trbojevic. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

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Rabbitohs centre Campbell Graham again stands as the most likely candidate to fill the breach for either player after he was initially in the extended squad for game one but had to withdraw due to a minor sternum problem. He returned on Saturday against the Titans and crossed for his 13th try of the season. 

Stephen Crichton, who filled in for Mitchell in Adelaide, is unlikely to get another start.

Forward pack: The Pangai and Young experiment backfired with the starting forwards each giving away penalties that handed momentum to Queensland. 

Junior Paulo should be elevated into the starting side, along with Liam Martin, who also gave the Blues plenty of impact off the bench.

The Blues can’t afford to lose Murray (groin) but Souths officials are confident it’s not a serious injury even though it forced him off on Saturday against Gold Coast.

Parramatta veteran Reagan Campbell-Gillard (groin injury) and Penrith’s Spencer Leniu (ruptured testicle) were unavailable for selection in game one but could be in line for a recall after being named to make their comebacks at club level this weekend along with Roosters veteran Angus Crichton or younger options like Wests Tigers prop Stefano Utoikamanu and Souths second-rower Keaon Koloamatangi. 

NSW Origin II possible team

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1 James Tedesco
2 Brian To’o
3 Latrell Mitchell
4 Tom Trbojevic
5 Josh Addo-Carr
6 Jarome Luai
7 Nicho Hynes
8 Junior Paulo
9 Damien Cook
10 Payne Haas
11 Tyson Frizell
12 Liam Martin
13 Isaah Yeo
Interchange
14 Matt Burton
15 Cameron Murray
16 Hudson Young
17 Stefano Utoikamanu
18 Stephen Crichton
19 Angus Crichton

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow of the Maroons celebrates scoring a try with team mates during game one of the 2023 State of Origin series between the Queensland Maroons and New South Wales Blues at Adelaide Oval on May 31, 2023 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow celebrates scoring a try. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Queensland Origin I team

1 Reece Walsh
2 Selwyn Cobbo
3 Valentine Holmes
4 Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow
5 Murray Taulagi
6 Cameron Munster
7 Daly Cherry-Evans
15 Tino Fa’asuamaleaui
9 Ben Hunt
16 Reuben Cotter
11 Tom Gilbert
12 David Fifita
13 Patrick Carrigan
Interchange
14 Harry Grant
8 Tom Flegler
10 Lindsay Collins
17 Jai Arrow
18 Tom Dearden
19 Christian Welch

Maroons spine: Walsh’s brilliant debut at fullback vindicated Slater’s bold decision to punt Kalyn Ponga despite his starring role in last year’s series win.

The rest of the spine will also remain the same unless injury or suspensions strike.

Outside backs: Cobbo suffered a hip injury late in the win over NSW and was unable to play for Brisbane in their win over Cronulla in Round 14.

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Broncos coach Kevin Walters said “he hasn;t come up too well” in announcing he would miss the Sharks game but he’s set to return this Saturday at home against Newcastle.

Assuming he gets the green light, the Maroons will keep the same combinations out wide.

Reuben Cotter of the Maroons is tackled by Hudson Young and Jarome Luai of the Blues during game one of the 2023 State of Origin series between the Queensland Maroons and New South Wales Blues at Adelaide Oval on May 31, 2023 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Maroons forward Reuben Cotter. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Forward pack: Gilbert’s Origin I dislocated shoulder and Arrow’s ankle surgery from a hip-drop tackle for the Rabbitohs on the Gold Coast mean Slater needs two new forwards.

Fa’asuamaleaui is breathing a sigh of relief after he was not banned by the match review committee for the Koroisau incident.

Jeremiah Nanai is back in the running after playing strongly for the Cowboys on Sunday against the Storm in his return from a hip-drop ban but his team has the bye this weekend so he won’t get another chance to impress.

Dolphins veteran Felise Kaufusi will be available after serving his high-tackle ban while Canberra’s Corey Horsburgh, Storm prop Christian Welch and Broncos second-rower Kurt Capewell are also candidates.

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Slater switched Flegler and Collins to the interchange and started with Fa’asuamaleaui and Cotter, who earned player of the match honours, so he may do likewise in Brisbane as they look to close out the series before the finale in Sydney.

Cotter played most of the match in the second row in logging the full 80 minutes after Gilbert was forced off.

Queensland Origin II possible team

1 Reece Walsh
2 Selwyn Cobbo
3 Valentine Holmes
4 Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow
5 Murray Taulagi
6 Cameron Munster
7 Daly Cherry-Evans
8 Tino Fa’asuamaleaui
9 Ben Hunt
10 Lindsay Collins
11 Reuben Cotter
12 David Fifita
13 Patrick Carrigan
Interchange
14 Harry Grant
15 Tom Flegler
16 Kurt Capewell
17 Christian Welch
18 Tom Dearden
19 Corey Horsburgh

with AAP

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