‘It was brutal’: Blues training that left journos stunned; Latrell makes call on Game III — Origin Daily
Rabbitohs star Latrell Mitchell has revealed he was never going to be able to play in Game II of the Origin series.
Mitchell returned from America following a five-day camp in the United States with specialist Bill Knowles, hoping for a long-term fix to repair a tendon tear in his left hamstring.
Upon return he contracted Covid, ruling him out of Souths’ clash against the Dragons.
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But now, the man who starred in the Blues 2-1 series win in 2021, is eyeing a return in Game III.
“I wasn’t close at all,” Mitchell said to 9News.
“It wouldn’t have been fair on myself if I ended up playing this week. I just wanted to get myself right and prepared well for South Sydney. That’s my own choice, not the club’s, not anyone else’s.
“Good luck to the boys and I hope they get the job done. If they get it done, I’ll be definitely keen for negotiating positional spots for game three.
“I’m pushing for [my return]. Definitely for Souths fans at home, be patient, I know you have been. I’m keen. I’m honestly (champing) at the bit.”
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Blues legend Mark Geyer believes that Queensland’s decision to depart the Gold Coast for Perth on Thursday could come back to haunt them.
Brad Fittler’s side travelled across to the Western state on Monday, allowing them to get used to the weather and change their sleeping patterns in time for Sunday.
Meanwhile, Billy Slater’s squad have only three nights to get over the two hour time difference.
“The fact that Queensland only left yesterday worries me a tad, because they are cutting it fine to get acclimatised, not just the weather over there but the two hours they have behind,” Geyer said on Triple M.
“I spoke to a couple of NSW players early in the week and they were finding it really hard to sleep so that could hit the Queenslanders early on, especially the debutants.”
There were also some stark differences in both team’s preparations for the crucial Game II clash.
The Maroons spent the start of their week recovering, while the Blues had lengthy sessions scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.
Queensland powerbrokers also chartered a private jet to fly the team across to Perth, while the Blues travelled as they normally would.
During NSW’s open session on Wednesday, according to SEN’s Michelle Bishop, everyone in attendance were shocked at how intense the training was.
“They were just too nice (in Game I) and nice doesn’t belong in the Origin arena,” Bishop said..
“Their session yesterday was out of this world. It was brutal.
“Some of the journalists walked away wondering what they had just witnessed.
“It was so competitive and it certainly didn’t feel like a training session.
“I’m surprised no one was injured. It was full-on.”
THE DECISIONS THAT LEFT THE BLUES FUMING
It has been revealed the Blues complained about five officiating decisions after they were upset by the Maroons in the series opener.
Queensland enjoyed the rub of the green in Sydney but five lineball calls could be found reviewing any game of rugby league, and at least three of the NSW’s complaints were 50-50 calls.
The other two were split-second decisions which reflect the human nature of refereeing. Ashley Klein has been reappointed to referee game two in Perth this Sunday.
The Blues wanted an explanation on the following calls from Klein in the series opener, according to the SMH.
- Kurt Capewell leaving marker early to put pressure on a Cleary kick.
- Patrick Carrigan tackling Cleary late after kick in the second half.
- Kalyn Ponga earning his side a seven-tackle set despite leaping from the field of play and into the in-goal to catch a Nathan Cleary kick.
- A penalty for Selwyn Cobbo being over the sideline when referee Ashley Klein called held despite momentum appearing to never stop.
- Lindsay Collins holding back Junior Paulo in the scrum before Daly Cherry-Evans scores.
NRL referees boss Jared Maxwell - who Blues coach Brad Fittler spoke to about his concerns before game one - had no hesitation in appointing Klein for game two.
LOCKYER LETS SLIP
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.
“Well yeah, maybe there might be some late changes,” Lockyer said on WWOS.
But Lockyer quickly emphasised 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 finalise 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.