David Klemmer’s unlikely but potential suspension had no impact on bringing in Ryan James and Matt Prior into State of Origin camp according to Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler.
Fittler is keen to bring new players that he has been closely watching for a long time in early to build continuity with a side that is still very new, and given it’s a shorter camp than usual.
Matt Prior’s selection may surprise some people, but given his experience on the big stage – winning the 2010 and 2016 Grand Finals with different clubs – it wasn’t a tough decision for Fittler.
“Anyone that watches footy closely will see the work that he does, no doubt,” Fittler says to NSWRL.com.au.
“I’ve been a fan for a long time, he’s been 18th man a couple of times too so he knocked on the door for a little bit.
“He then had the big year in 2016 was absolutely brilliant when they won the Grand Final, he was a bit unlucky not to make it then.”
The other player Fittler is bringing into camp is Luke Keary and he’s unsure at this stage, which, of any, of these players will be included in the starting 17.
Given the injuries to Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trbojevic over the weekend, it’s important to get the new players in early and involved with the team so that they can be ready if required next Sunday night.
“Watching Roosters and Panthers it was like someone threw a grenade into the camp, so we’re just adjusting to that and getting on the front foot so we can see the boys as early as we can.
“James Maloney came off pretty wounded and I love the way Luke Keary has been playing lately, I think he’s got the right attitude we need for State of Origin so I think he’ll become a really good team member.
“Ryan James has been the man of the match the past two weeks, so we just couldn’t overlook Ryan anymore and Matt Prior is someone I’m a huge fan of, I like the way that they play and they really suit what we’re trying to do.
“Given that Reagan Campbell-Gillard is out for six weeks minimum with a broken jaw, we’ll make that decision later.”
The team will gather at Coogee later this afternoon for the first day of camp, where they will try and squeeze what they usually get out of 10 days into seven.
Given Fittler has never even met Ryan James or Matt Prior, he’s keen to get everyone together early to work on those combinations that got the job done in Game One.
“The shame of it is the two teams only have a week and that’s why we’re trying to get as much time together as possible,” Fittler says.
“Combinations need time, and the majority of our team have only had the ten days that we had last camp, we’re building combinations, they’re not combinations that have been in existence for a long time.
“I haven’t met either of them [James or Prior], and I’ve been fans of them for a long time, but what I have worked out is that they’re really keen to get in and really keen to be involved.
“Getting them both in will be fantastic and it’s just something I want to do is have them and everyone getting amongst it.”