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Klemmer, Graham still in Blues contention despite initial snub

Newcastle prop David Klemmer and Wade Graham remain under consideration for State of Origin, despite not being added to their NSW squad after their teams were eliminated from the finals series.

Knights forward Daniel Saifiti was named in the Blues squad, alongside St George Illawarra centre Zac Lomax, Dragons captain Cameron McInnes, their Newcastle-bound second-rower Tyson Frizell, Manly forward Jake Trbojevic and Brisbane front-rower Payne Haas.

Klemmer was initially overlooked for last year’s series decider at ANZ Stadium but received a recall when St George Illawarra second-rower Tariq Sims was suspended and started in the match, which the Blues won 26-20 to retain the State of Origin trophy.

NSW and Queensland are selecting 27-man squads for the end-of-season series but and Blues coach Brad Fittler has opted to only name certainties to ensure he has room for players who impress during the finals series.

It is understood Klemmer was aware before Sunday’s 46-20 elimination final loss to South Sydney that he would be not be included in the updated list of players named after the opening weekend of the playoffs but is still a chance of being in the final squad.

Every try from finals week 1

News of Klemmer's omission surprised his Kangaroos teammate Josh Papalii, who will be the spearhead of Queensland's pack against NSW when the rescheduled Origin series kicks off in Adelaide on November 4.

"Yeah I was surprised, obviously I don't know where Freddie's going with that one.

"I think he might be picking a lighter squad, maybe a few more back-rowers with the rule changes," the Raiders enforcer said on Monday.

David Klemmer, with Josh Papalii, in support against New Zealand in 2019.
David Klemmer, with Josh Papalii, in support against New Zealand in 2019. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

"But for Klemmer, one of the best front-rowers [in the NRL] for a few years now to miss out, it's a bit different.

"He's a scary human Klem. He's pretty fiery and he's one of those guys, you just don't poke the bear.

"I think he's one of those guys, when you're playing against him, you're careful of those confrontations because it can really bring out the best in him.

"I've played with him at Test level and played a lot against him, he's always one you're on edge around. So yeah, a bit surprised but it's NSW, I'll leave that to them."

Fittler is likely to select up to nine middle forwards, as well as McInnes, who shifted between lock and hooker for the Dragons this season and will be considered for a utility role.

With Haas, Saifiti and Trbojevic already chosen, Klemmer is vying with the likes of Penrith’s Isaah Yeo and James Tamou, Parramatta’s Junior Paulo, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Nathan Brown, Melbourne’s Dale Finucane and South Sydney’s Cameron Murray for five or six remaining spots.

Wade Graham evades Queensland during NSW's series-clinching win in Origin III in 2019.
Wade Graham evades Queensland during NSW's series-clinching win in Origin III in 2019. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

It is a similar situation with Graham, who is competing for three edge second-row positions with NSW captain Boyd Cordner, his Roosters teammate Angus Crichton, Parramatta’s Ryan Matterson and Penrith’s Liam Martin.

Frizell has already been selected and Cordner is a certainty if he is fit so Fittler is likely to wait to see how Crichton, Matterson and Martin perform in the coming weeks before deciding whether there is room for Graham.

Lomax was initially on standby but not named in the Blues squad after St George Illawarra’s season ended but he was officially included after Manly star Tom Trbojevic withdrew late last week.

Another eight or nine outside backs are expected to be named, including Canberra pair Jack Wighton and Nick Cotric, Melbourne’s Ryan Papenhuzen and Josh Addo-Carr, and Roosters star James Tedesco.

Penrith centre Stephen Crichton, Roosters winger Daniel Tupou, Raiders captain Jarrod Croker and Parramatta’s Blake Ferguson are other contenders, while Eels skipper Clint Gutherson is favoured for a utility role.

Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary, Roosters five-eighth Luke Keary and his Rabbitohs counterpart Cody Walker are considered shoo-ins for the NSW playmaking roles, while Souths hooker Damian Cook and Penrith’s Api Koroisau are the main hooking candidates.