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Fittler: Tough call on Papenhuyzen but Brown ready to hook in

Brad Fittler says it was tough not being able to give a NSW debut to Ryan Papenhuyzen or Cam McInnes but has kept the faith with the 17 that won game two despite a lack of utility value on the bench.

Papenhuyzen was widely tipped to perform the sort of role in game three as he did for the Storm in 2019, adding spark and pace off the bench, while McInnes was being considered in the wake of Damien Cook nearly missing game three.

However, Isaah Yeo's ability to play centre and Nathan Brown's ability to cover dummy-half will have to suffice.

"We'll be 1-17," Fittler told NRL.com at the Blues' final full field session at Morry Breen Oval on Monday.

"There's a few blokes there, Gutho [centre Clint Gutherson] obviously moves around. Isaah has played centre. You go into the game to be positive then whatever happens you deal with it."

Gutherson is a regular fullback who has played halves and wing as well as centre while left centre Jack Wighton won the Dally M Medal this year playing in the halves so Yeo's ability to cover either of them at centre means the entire backline is covered.

Brown's past two seasons brushing up on dummy-half work at the Eels (with a short cameo there at the end of Origin II) means there are contingencies in place for any outcome.

"Yeah, absolutely," Fittler said when asked if he was confident in Brown's dummy-half ability.

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"He only got a couple of minutes [in that role in game two] but I've seen him do it at Parramatta, he's got a great pass.

"If you lose a hooker it's backs against the wall so you do what you can do. It's only one game."

Fittler conceded it was tough to tell Papenhuyzen and McInnes they would not be making their Ampol State of Origin debut this season but backed both of them to don the sky blue in the near future.

A lack of combinations with the rest of the group heading into a decider was a factor while also wanting to reward the 17 players who got the job done in game two.

"Paps hasn't really played with many of these blokes. He's been incredible for Melbourne, he's played that role for Melbourne. I think just the fact he hasn't done it with us but it won't be too long before he's playing," Fittler said.

"McInnes has been incredible, he's just a good person. Quality character. Hopefully he gets a chance soon too."

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Josh Addo-Carr (toe) completed the full session on Monday meaning Nick Cotric will also drop from the reserves list. Squad members Luke Keary and Reagan Campbell-Gillard were absent from Monday's session after being given permission to leave the squad early.

Brown told NRL.com he was ready to do whatever was necessary, whether that was in a lock role or at hooker.

"Whatever I can do for the team. If that's at hooker or at lock or whatever I'll definitely put my hand up. Whatever the team needs I'll definitely do," Brown said.

"[Playing hooker] has been spoken about; not too much but there was definitely been a heads-up. It's something I've touched up at training this week, doing some practice if the worst-case scenario happens.

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"It was all good. I just need to create some ruck speed for the forwards, get them on the ball and get some momentum."

Brown's first 15-minute spell left a mark in game two, flattening Jake Friend with his first hit-up, playing a part in the Payne Haas v Tino Fa'asuamaleaui dust-up and driving the Blues' momentum further ahead.

"It's just that job when you come off the bench," Brown added.

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"You have to create some energy, change the momentum and bring a different option off the bench. The boys that started last game did a terrific job and us guys off the bench have to continue that or even take it up a notch."

The Blues have altered their usual Origin lead-in to stay at their Central Coast base for captain's run before flying to Brisbane on game day.

Usually NSW spend the final 24 hours of game lead-in at their Homebush centre of excellence across the way from ANZ Stadium, staying at the nearby Pullman Hotel.

But the Indian cricket team has pre-booked the entire Pullman at Olympic Park for their two-week quarantine before taking on Australia in T20, one-day and Test fixtures, pushing NSW out of the precinct.

 

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