NSW coach Brad Fittler calls Api Koroisau, Jake Trbojevic, Clint Gutherson and Siosifa Talakai into game two side; Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Ryan Matterson, Kotoni Staggs and Tariq Sims miss out
It means seven Panthers are expected to be part of Fittler’s 17 at Optus Stadium, with Stephen Crichton set to earn a promotion to the starting side after Wighton’s COVID-19 positive.
It is a reprieve for Koroisau, who feared for his Origin future after breaching COVID-19 protocols by bringing a woman to the Blues’ team hotel the night before game two last year. He was suspended for two games and fined $50,000 by the NRL and NSWRL.
But a conversation with Fittler ensured he wouldn’t be blacklisted from future selection, and his outstanding form for the table-topping Panthers ensured he won a place on the bench for game two.
Asked about his bubble breach before game one of this year’s series, Koroisau said: “Definitely, I thought that was the end of it for me. I thought that was it. But all I could do at the time was learn from it and grow as a person out of it.”
Crichton was used off the bench in game one, but selectors were giving serious thought to choosing him in the run-on side over Staggs – even before Wighton’s withdrawal.
But the biggest talking point was Burton, who has sprung to life in the past month after a tough start to life at the Bulldogs.
His trademark rain-making bombs will be used as a second kicking option alongside vice-captain Nathan Cleary, and he will have no problem playing on the left side alongside former Penrith teammates Jarome Luai and Brian To’o.
Burton starred in the centres last year and scored the first try in the grand final. Blues selectors had no issues including him in the position for his first taste of Origin despite returning to his more familiar position of five-eighth at the Bulldogs.
Roosters forward Angus Crichton is another to earn a recall to the Blues squad after being left out of the series opener at Accor Stadium. There was no room for Josh Addo-Carr, however, who again shone for the Bulldogs at CommBank Stadium.
Joseph Suaalii is expected to be used as the team’s 18th man.
Meanwhile, South Sydney forward Jai Arrow will be part of Billy Slater’s game two team after a hamstring injury to Queensland forward Reuben Cotter.
Maroons prop Lindsay Collins will be free to play in game two after only being fined for a lifting tackle in the Roosters’ loss to the Eels on Saturday night. Collins will cop a $2500 penalty for an early guilty plea after being hit with a grade one dangerous throw on Waqa Blake.
Murray Taulagi is poised to come onto the wing for the injured Xavier Coates, who will miss the rest of the series with a syndesmosis problem.
Patrick Carrigan, arguably Queensland’s best player in game one, is likely to move into the starting side in lieu of Cotter.
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