Brad Fittler’s NSW Blues team selections can work against Queensland Maroons, writes Peter Sterling


When circumstances change, it is natural to see a reaction and Fittler and his crew obviously felt the need to inject more Origin experience into a do-or-die situation.

Of the seven called upon, five have competed at this level in the past, with Dale Finucane and Daniel Saifiti the exceptions. The former is clearly made for this type of contest, the latter is something of a leap of faith but brings impressive club form.

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The coach has stated that he wanted to go to Perth not “hoping” but knowing what he was going to get.

James Maloney brings confidence and direction and his combination with halves partner Nathan Cleary for Penrith in the past couple of weeks has been first class. They have shared first- and second-receiver responsibilities seamlessly and their kicking games have been spot on.

I felt that was an area that let the Blues down in game one and didn’t allow the side to keep the pressure on when it was in position to do so.

Listening to Freddy discuss this squad it seems apparent that both Wade Graham and Tom Trbojevic would have been selected for Suncorp if they had been available.

When fit, Turbo is such a special talent that he is an automatic selection. Being named in the centres with Jack Wighton has caused consternation, but they are such natural talents and they read play so instinctively that they will be able to handle their respective assignments. I predict this will eventually be Jack’s best position.

They will be given two basic team understandings. Firstly, ‘don’t try and solve a problem that doesn’t exist’. In other words, don’t overread and rush out of the line when it is not necessary.

King of the north: Tom Trbojevic in action against the Dragons on Sunday.Credit:AAP

Secondly, “If a problem does exist, we solve it together”. That calls for defenders to react to each other and trust that decision-making. If one man goes up and in, so does everyone.

When Queensland were grabbing the initiative early in the second half in Brisbane, NSW struggled to bring the ball out effectively in their opening carries.

Blake Ferguson relishes that challenge and is a big body well versed in the role. What a team does on carries one, two and three determines what tackles four, five and six look like and Ferguson is particularly adept at starting off a set in strong fashion.

Like Maloney, he brings experience and confidence to the table as well as knowing how to get the ball over the line.

It is a new-look bench that gives the coach great flexibility and whilst there is criticism that the forwards in general lack size, they all “play big” in their physicality and minutes. The attraction that really excites me is the combination of the aggression of the likes of Tyson Frizell, Tariq Sims and Finucane and the footwork of Cameron Murray, Jake Trbojevic and Graham.

I don’t profess to know Brad Fittler’s inner thoughts, but as a work colleague each week I love listening to his insight and understanding of the game.

He sees it very simply and has a clear view of what it takes to be successful and the requirements involved. He is unaffected and often oblivious to popular thinking, more inclined to trust his gut. His thoughts certainly never suffer from paralysis from analysis by others.

His underlying philosophy is to give confidence and the freedom for his charges to “just play”, allowing their talent and personalities to come to the fore. As I said, simple but also mightily refreshing and two words that give NSW the best chance of being in front on the scoreboard at the end of the 80 minutes.

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