The Penrith connection in the Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues has given Stephen Crichton the edge to replace Latrell Mitchell if he fails to recover in time from a hamstring injury for Game One of the Ampol State of Origin series.
Mitchell has been given an eight-week rehabilitation after he suffered a tear in his left hamstring tendon during the Round Five win over St George Illawarra Dragons.
It means he will be cutting it fine for selection in the NSW Origin team to be named after Round 12 for the opening game of the series at Accor Stadium on 8 June.
“They are tough to come back from,” True Blue Luke Lewis told Behind Blue Eyes.
“Hammies are one of those injuries you really have to manage well.
“Look hopefully we see him back in six weeks and not eight…because I’d love to see him in the Blues jersey come Origin I.”
But failing that, Lewis had no hesitation in recommending the 21-year-old outside back.
“He’s a great footballer and a specialist out there in the centres,” Lewis said.
“I think the combination with his Panthers players that are going to be in the Origin side would definitely be a huge plus for him.
“If Latrell is definitely out, I’d be throwing Stephen Crichton in.”
His three tries in five games, three line-breaks, and average 151 metres per game in 2022, makes Crichton more than a suitable alternative.
From a field of NRL centre options including Bradman Best (Newcastle Knights), Campbell Graham (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Kotoni Staggs (Brisbane Broncos) and Matt Burton (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Lewis lent towards Staggs and Best because of their strength and aggression.
“(Staggs) is another one you sort of forget about because he missed a lot of football last year,” Lewis said.
“It’s taken him a little bit of time to find his feet, but he had a blinder on the weekend against the Roosters and pretty much turned that game around all by himself.
“He could definitely stand up there, but I think he meeds a little more time to get more football under his belt.
“One guy I do believe could tear the Origin arena apart is Kotoni Staggs. Eventually we will see him in an Origin jersey.”
He felt that way about Best as well, but the Penrith connection pointed him back to Crichton.
“I do believe we will see (Best) in an Origin jersey sometime soon but just with the combination with the Panthers Isaah Yeo, Nathan Cleary, Liam Martin… the list goes on… Stephen Crichton would just fit in perfectly as they know the system and understand each other,” Lewis said
“I just think it’s the perfect fit.”