Queensland selector Darren Lockyer has let slip there might be late changes to the Maroons’ starting side ahead of Game II on Sunday.
Immortal Wally Lewis asked Lockyer whether Ben Hunt would again start again at hooker with Harry Grant coming off the bench.
Lockyer appeared taken aback by the question before revealing coach Billy Slater could be set to tinker with the 17 named this week.
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“Well yeah, maybe there might be some late changes,” Lockyer said on WWOS.
But Lockyer quickly emphasized the Maroons coaches were happy with how Hunt and Grant combined in their game one victory.
“The concept is that Ben (Hunt) takes the sting out of the game and allows Harry to come on and do his thing – and he was very good in game one,” Lockyer said.
The panel also discussed whether Patrick Carrigan – who almost won man-of-the-match off the bench in the opener – would start.
“Sometimes when I get to these big games I look at the bench first before I look at the 1-13, because the bench plays a big part in the … result of the game,” Lockyer said.
“Our bench was really, really good game one, and I think Billy is thinking that Carrigan was so good (because) he came off the bench, (and) he wants the same effort or the same impact.”
FREDDY TO WEAR THE BLAME
NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler must shoulder the blame if his host of changes fails to produce a victory against Queensland in State of Origin Game II on Sunday.
That’s the view of the Daily Telegraph‘s Paul Crawley after Fittler made wholesale changes to his side after a 16-10 loss in the series opener.
According to Crawley, Fittler has been his side’s biggest critic and his sweeping changes are an admission the selectors got it wrong to begin with.
“They have made a lot of changes, given they lost by six points, I think it is an admission NSW got it wrong,” Crawley said on NRL 360.
“I think Billy definitely out-coached him, NSW have admitted by their team selections for Game II that they got it wrong.
“NSW’s biggest critic has been their own coach, because he is the one that has gone from spending months to finalize his first team.
“Then a loss by six points, he has made mass changes and he has gone into this game thinking he has picked a better side and he probably has picked a better side.
“But if they don’t aim up this time it is Brad Fittler who has to wear the result.”
The question was raised whether rookie coach Billy Slater bested Fittler, who has led NSW on 13 occasions.
But, looking at Queensland’s coaching staff which includes Slater and Maroons legend Cameron Smith, Crawley believes NSW should have seen an ambush coming.
“You ask the question, did Billy outcoach him? Of course they did,” Crawley said.
“Queensland out-coached him, they outplayed, they played with greater momentum, greater speed at the ruck, the pressure that they put on Nathan was match-defining.
“They have gone out with a plan and the plan has worked, and I kind of think, Billy was a first-up coach, so you knew nothing about what style he was going to come with other than the fact he spent his whole career playing at Melbourne.
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“He has Cameron Smith in their staff, you don’t have to be a genius to know what they are going to do.”
FITTLER’S RUCK CLAIM CALLED INTO QUESTION
Post-match ‘Freddy’ was disappointed with how his side handled the Maroons ruck tactics and the NRL 360 panel believe the Blues should have been expecting them from the outset.
Meanwhile, it has been revealed the difference in speed between NSW and Queensland’s ruck was only marginal — with 0.2 seconds separating the sides.
“I am led to believe it wasn’t warranted (Fittler’s criticism), I am led to believe the speed of the ruck and play the balls in Origin I were faster than they are in an average NRL game and the difference between NSW and Queensland came down to a fraction of a second,” Crawley said.
“In maybe a dozen tackles through the game that are really critical moments in the game, that is where Queensland did their job on NSW, which is just smart coaching.
“It is not overdoing it, it is just doing it the right way.”
“How did NSW get surprised by Queensland’s tactics? That is the bit I have been questioning,” Kent said.
“Queensland had acknowledged it early, we saw there Tino Fa’asuamaleaui actually looking at the referee with a player down, knowing he has got a few more seconds,” Anasta said.
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“I didn’t see one NSW player do that.”
“That is the issue, why, why is NSW only just discovering this in the game, Brad Fittler is in his 13th game as an Origin coach, Billy Slater is in his first, Billy was aware of it, Freddy wasn’t,” Kent said.
“Jack Wighton was completely deflated to your point that they didn’t pick it up,” Riccio said.