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NSW face selection dilemmas for Origin III

3 minute read

Brad Fittler will be forced to change a winning team after NSW squared the series with a dominant State of Origin win over Queensland in Perth.

BRAD FITTLER.
BRAD FITTLER. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Brad Fittler faces two headaches after NSW squared the State of Origin series on Sunday to set up a tantalising decider at Suncorp Stadium.

The first is who will replace dynamic Brisbane prop Payne Haas after he suffered an injury as the Blues brushed the Maroons aside in a 44-12 win in Perth.

Haas, who has been managing a shoulder issue all season, was spotted leaving Optus Stadium in a moon boot.

Fittler suggested in his post-match press conference that Haas had picked up an ankle sprain and with Origin III on July 13 the prop would be at long odds to play in Brisbane.

Junior Paulo was impressive off the bench and Fittler will have to weigh up whether to shift the Parramatta forward to his starting side.

North Queensland's Jordan McLean, Newcastle's Daniel Saifiti or Parramatta's Reagan Campbell-Gillard loom as the most likely replacements as the Blues look to clinch the series in Brisbane for the first time since 2005.

The other issue the Blues coach must now solve is what to do with centre Matt Burton, with Latrell Mitchell and Jack Wighton both available for the decider after missing game two with COVID-19.

"We'll wait and see," Fittler said, after Burton scored on his Origin debut off a deft Nathan Cleary grubber and set up Brian To'o late in the first half.

In normal circumstances that would be enough to keep an Origin jersey, but with Mitchell and Wighton waiting to come back Fittler will be torn on whether to stick or twist.

"It's a privilege to put this jersey on," Burton said.

"I'll just keep working hard, and hopefully get the call up next game."

While Wighton and Mitchell both offer running threats, Burton's kicking game relieved the pressure on Cleary and troubled the Maroons back three.

Burton, 22, looked assured in his maiden Origin outing even if he admitted to being a bag of nerves before kick-off.

"I was just sitting there with so many thoughts going through my brain, but it was just good to get out there," he said.

"Damien Cook came up to me and said, 'just soak it all in and enjoy it out there'.

"That's when it really hit me and I switched - he calmed me down."

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