The benefit of having a relatively fit side is not lost on Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler, but he won’t be afraid to carry niggling injuries into Game Two camp to maintain key combinations.
Speaking on Five with Fittler two weeks before naming his Origin I team, the 31-time NSW representative reflected on last year’s Game One success in explaining the advantage of full fitness.
“Last year I think NSW, across the board, were all fit and healthy,” Fittler told NSWRL.com.au. “The doctor didn’t have to attend to one player.
“It’s quite rare that you get a team that isn’t carrying some sort of injury.”
Following the state’s Game One victory in Melbourne, however, stocks are beginning to be tested. While Reagan Campbell-Gillard is the first certain casualty, suffering a broken jaw and being omitted from Fittler’s 20-man Game Two squad, he knows other players on both sides will be below full fitness.
“It’s nearly impossible to be 100% fit at this stage,” Fittler said after announcing his squad on Saturday night. “You’ve got to say if you haven’t got an injury at this stage of the year, you haven’t played hard enough.
“The shame of it is the two teams only have a week to prepare (for Origin II) and that’s why we’re trying to get as much time together as possible.
“Combinations need time and the majority of our team have only had the 10 days that we had last camp. We’re building combinations, they’re not combinations that have been in existence for a long time.”
With the NRL taking a break for the representative weekend on 23-24 June, it has allowed an extended squad to come together as early as possible. On Sunday afternoon, every player except Josh Addo-Carr – whose team the Storm plays in Newcastle at 2pm – will come together for an early assessment of potential injuries.
While there is no suggestion that either will miss the second game of the series, James Maloney and Tom Trbojevic are two players who Fittler is keen to get an early look at.
“James Maloney came off (Friday night’s clash with the Roosters) pretty wounded,” Fittler said, before indicating who would be Maloney’s potential replacement. “I love the way Luke Keary’s been playing lately and I think he’s just got just the right attitude.
“They said Tom Trbojevic might have hurt his shoulder, so we’ll assess that (on Sunday) and I think that’s it. We’re getting on the front foot so we can see the boys as early as we can really.”
Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues staff expect to have a clearer picture of their playing stocks on Sunday afternoon, before the week-long training camp commences in Coogee.