NSW coach Brad Fittler says he will use every minute of time available to assess any likely team changes but believes the halves plan with Cody Walker on the bench worked well while backing Isaah Yeo to cover for the injured Cameron Murray.
The talking points out of the Blues' 18-14 upset loss were the underwhelming performances of halves duo Nathan Cleary and Luke Keary, coupled with an impressive late stint off the bench from Walker, plus some defensive issues from makeshift centre pairing Jack Wighton and Clint Gutherson.
Fittler backed his centres in his post-game media conference and on Thursday remained bullish about the halves combination, admitting he wanted to get Walker into the game earlier but injuries in the forwards prevented it.
"It worked good; we've still got tomorrow and the next day to start naming teams and 21s, so we'll use all of that time," Fittler said.
"[Walker] came on because we needed points. There was maybe an opportunity earlier, maybe at the back end of the first half which we looked at to bring him on.
Wighton may play, Murray out for the series
"It would have been interesting if we did that when we got to 10-0 up. But that didn't happen, Cam Murray might have got hurt and Boyd was off at the same time so we lost that opportunity and only found it late in the game.
"He created a try and nearly created a couple of others so I thought the plan worked pretty good."
Match: Blues v Maroons
Game 2 -
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Fittler was however disappointed with his side's inability to control the game better in the first half when they had the running and the wind behind them, including a failure to pressure the Maroons three rookie outside backs.
"It was disappointing the first half … We didn't grind them into the ground, we didn't use the wind at all, we didn't use the conditions at all. You have a rookie winger, rookie fullback, we didn't test them at all. That was so disappointing," Fittler said.
"It's not just the halves but at the end of the day they play in the positions where they end up kicking the ball and guiding us around. At some stage we have to improve that part of it."
The series-ending injury to Murray from his very first carry also threw the bench rotation out.
Boyd Cordner and Tyson Frizell are the only specialist edge forwards in the squad, with Murray and Yeo – both locks who can fill in on and edge – and utility forward Angus Crichton the other options.
Cordner will likely be monitored after undergoing an HIA in game one, which he passed.
The top tackles from Origin I
Fittler was cryptic when quizzed on his thinning edge options on Thursday, but indicated Yeo was the front runner for Murray's bench spot.
"It's hard to say, sometimes you throw the balls in the air and find a way for them to land in the right space," he said.
"Isaah Yeo is there as well, Angus Crichton is an edge player. We can cover the next game."
Keary said he was disappointed with the outcome but glad to have got the chance to make his debut and combine with Nathan Cleary.
"It was good [to play with Cleary] … It's funny, in that first half we were so dominant you could feel all that space, but we just got excited, pushed a few passes and made a few errors," Keary said.
"It came back on us at the end of the game when the legs were running out of steam."
Blues must use loss as 'attitude adjustment' says Fittler
"[Walker] obviously had that spark there at the end when we were chasing points. We came up with a try and nearly came up with a couple more there."
Pressed on the missed chance to pressure the rookie Maroons back three, he said: "I felt like we were kicking pretty deep in our yardage, we couldn't really get it up there.
"We need to be better in a lot of areas of our game into game two."
Keary bore no hard feeling about comments after the game from Blues legend Andrew Johns that Walker and Cleary should be the starting halves for game two.
"That's what he's paid for, to give his opinion. I know it comes from a good place with him too, he cares about his team, his state and his footy," Keary said.
"I don't take it personally at all, with Joey it comes from a good place."
Keary was also pressed on the controversial finish to the game, with full-time blown before the siren at the ground or the television clock had expired. The Sydney Morning Herald reported NSWRL CEO David Trodden had asked for an explanation from the NRL.
Head of football Graham Annesley explained the timekeeper provides a warning to the referee with 10 seconds remaining, another one at five seconds and then a countdown after that and that any suggestion the time was wrong was false.
"I knew it was close. He would have probably got the call in his ear that it was over. We shouldn't have left it that late," Keary said.
"Most teams would have done the same thing, it is what it is. If you leave it to those situations that's what's going to happen. It wasn't frustrating, I think it's what most teams would have done."
Game two tickets start from $45 for members and $49 for general public or get your wig and experience the Blatchy’s effect from $85 for members or $90 for the general public