Matt Prior to Debut in Origin II
Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler tonight announced that 31-year-old Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks prop Matt Prior will replace Reagan Campbell-Gillard for Game Two of the 2018 Holden State of Origin series, making him the fourth oldest NSW Origin debutant since the series' inception in 1980.
Fittler made the decision to choose Prior ahead of Ryan James this afternoon following the 20-man squad's first full training run at Kippax Oval, Moore Park today (19 June).
"It was one of the harder things you've got to do as a coach, but great reaction by both players," Fittler said.
"I've been fans of both of those players for a long time and it was just one of those decisions you had to make and I wanted to get it away earlier rather than later.
"The similarities between Matt and Reagan Campbell-Gillard tipped us that way ... and we don't have to change as much.
"Obviously Matt Prior, 31, playing his first game for New South Wales is incredibly exciting. "
For Prior, the dual premiership player with the Dragons and the Sharks, he was pleased the years of hard work and persistence had paid off.
"It's awesome. I'm really looking forward to Sunday and I can't wait to rip in and get out there," said Prior.
"It's a dream come true for me. I've been grinding away for the last three or four years just putting in every little bit of work that I could possibly do.
"There are not many boxes I haven't ticked ... extras on my days off, just always believing that maybe one day I might get a chance (to represent NSW) and if I ever do I'd be ready.
"I've played in a couple of grand finals and they didn't make me too nervous, so I think I'll be able to keep the nerves under control and just worry about the little things and focus on my job."
Oldest NSW Players on State of Origin Debut*
Tony Butterfield 32 and 135 days Game Three, 1998
Max Krilich 31 and 219 days Game One, 1982
Hazem El Masri 31 and 93 days Game Three, 2007
Matt Prior 31 and 29 days Game Two, 2018
John Ferguson 30 and 317 days Game One, 1985
Tom Raudonikis 30 and 86 days 1980
Source: David Middleton (League Information Services)