Fittler defends Hodkinson, Reynolds
New South Wales legend Brad Fittler says there's plenty of time for under-fire halves Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds to find form prior to this year's Origin series.
But he also wants to see how they react to the negative criticism.
The Bulldogs pair came under fire this week from another Blues icon in Andrew Johns, who said he was "terrified" by the current form of the incumbent NSW duo.
With Origin I still over a month away, Fittler jumped to the defence of the drought-breaking duo.
"Origin's six weeks away. I understand Joey's comments based on last week and maybe their form hasn't been outstanding," he said at a City Origin engagement at Liverpool on Wednesday.
"[But] they're not at the bottom of the table, Canterbury. And Josh Reynolds hasn't played that much. There's still six weeks to go, there's a lot of time to impress the coach in six weeks."
Fittler, who is also an assistant coach with the Blues, said injuries will be a deciding factor in how the team shapes up when the side is announced at the conclusion of Round 10.
"Jamal Idris just did his knee on the weekend. I was just talking to Beau Champion, he did his knee. Adam Reynolds got his ankle snapped," he said.
"So much happens in six weeks. I know we all love a good story, and it's a great story at the moment. But I think the key is, I know Laurie will be very patient and hold his thoughts to himself and give everyone an opportunity.
"You want to be good 2-3 weeks out. They've gone through a campaign last year that they obviously hadn't been through before. And it's been pretty tough, because their form hasn't been great. But as I said, they'll come out, they'll have some negative reactions at the moment in the media, and we'll see how they react to them."
Fittler also revealed that Dragons fullback Josh Dugan is considered the front-runner for the all-important No.1 jumper vacated by Jarryd Hayne.
"He'd be the number one person for fullback for sure. He's been there," Fittler said.
"You've got Brett Stewart who's not playing that good at the moment, but he's been there as well. It's a big arena. It's a very different arena. So there's a lot of pressure involved.
"But talking to Laurie leading into what we've spoken about today, 'Duges' was the number one choice. And then form will dictate who actually gets a shot."
The former Panther and Rooster indicated New South Wales' experienced players such as Luke Lewis, Mitchell Pearce, and Anthony Watmough could be rested for the City-Country fixture on May 3 should they not be selected for the Kangaroos.
"When you're talking about Trent Hodkinson, you're talking about a bloke whose knees... sometimes rest is going to be the best thing for him," he said.
"Whether it's Gallen or Lewis, all these players have been rested in the past for different reasons. If Laurie thinks they're a certainty for State of Origin, he has a really good think whether he thinks they need another game or not."
Fittler, who this year stepped into a developmental coaching role for the NSWRL 16s, 18s and 20s sides, also hinted at handing City jumpers to rising talents Luke Keary, Chad Townsend, Blake Austin, Aidan Sezer, James Tedesco, Curtis Sironen, Waqa Blake and James Roberts.