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Fittler spoilt for choice for back row Origin options

Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler says he’s spoilt for choice when it comes to finding a replacement for injured South Sydney captain Cameron Murray in his Origin I line-up.

The Rabbitohs announced that Murray was having a minor clean-up procedure on his reconstructed shoulder - which he had surgery on in the off-season - and would miss up to four weeks.

As Fittler surveyed the next crop of NSW talent coming through as the CABE Under 16s and Under 18s Country and City sides trained at the Ignite HQ Centre of Excellence, he spoke of having the luxury of depth in the back row for Game One at Accor Stadium on 8 June.

“Keaon (Koloamatangi) has been part of our camp, we’ve also got Tariq (Sims), Tyson (Frizell), Liam (Martin), Angus (Crichton)… blokes that have either been part of the camp or have played prior,” Fittler said.

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“It’s such an important position out there – there’s so much pressure on those people, especially in defence.

“Over the last four or five years we’ve always had really good depth, so that helps.”

Fittler is already a man down on his choice for the No.14 bench utility with Melbourne Storm No.1 Ryan Papenhuyzen out for four to six weeks with knee ligament damage and a hamstring tear.

But incumbent Jack Wighton and Cronulla halfback Nicho Hynes are options – or even Sharks centre/back-rower Siosifa Talakai.

“It will come down to how the make-up of the team is looking and how our bench sits,” Fittler said.

“I’m really mindful of having to cover all positions with HIAs now and having independent doctors.

“What we’ve seen in games is that there can be plenty of surprises. It’s about being prepared for those surprises.”

Fittler names his team on 29 May at the end of the NRL’s Round 12.

Harvey Norman NSW Sky Blues coach Kylie Hilder will name her Origin team before June 5, ahead of the Ampol Women’s State of Origin in Canberra on 24 June.

Hilder was on hand with Fittler to help train not just the CABE Under 16s and Under 18s but also the Harvey Norman Women’s Open Country and City teams, coached by Ruan Sims and Darrin Borthwick respectively.

The two head coaches were joined by True Blues Mark O’Meley, Luke Lewis, Craig Wing and Brett Kimmorley in putting the boys and women through sets of skills and an opposed session.

“Obviously we haven’t finalised our Origin team yet so it’s a great chance to have a good look at players we haven’t seen in this rep arena before,” Hilder said.

“Every position is still open, as far as I’m concerned, until we make that final decision.

“So, any of these girls can push forward for a spot in our final team.”

Hilder named a preliminary 24-player squad in mid-April. Nine players from that line-up will play in the 2022 Country-City match at 4 Pines Park, Brookvale, on Saturday.

Fittler sent plenty of spiralling bombs up over the NSWRL training field for the female fullbacks and wingers to catch. He worked with the Under 16s and Under 18s forwards on running angles and lines.

He offered words of encouragement to them all, as well as making them remove their boots and socks at the end of the sessions to “earth them” with Mother Nature’s minerals.

“I love that part the best,” Fittler said, after he drew all the players into a huddle to deliver a final message.

“Be mindful what you do off the ball – there’s a lot that can be done when you haven’t got the football in your hands.

“The great teams do that really well. So, I just made them conscious of getting set early – all those parts of the game they can show energy without the footy – that’s the big message.

“Off the field the message is ‘Don’t wait for the game to prepare.’ Use your training sessions as a way to prepare and practise your skills.”

Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.