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Brad Fittler – the Harley riding larrikin with pet llamas, earthing exercises and competitive footy fire all rolled into one – will put his faith in two of NSW's quietest characters for the biggest challenge of his Origin coaching career.

With Boyd Cordner's latest head knock ruling him out of the series, the Blues will be led onto ANZ Stadium on Wednesday night by James Tedesco.

The two-time premiership-winning, Dally M medallist thinks he may have last captained a side, any side, during his under-age days at Camden Rams.

Still, a "quiet confidence" emerged as Tedesco's biggest leadership asset when Fittler's staff first weighed up their options as Cordner's vice-captain last year.

"Overwhelmingly everyone just said Teddy," Fittler recalls of discussions involving Greg Alexander, Craig Fitzgibbon and Danny Buderus among others.

"He's coming off a great couple of years playing, and he just has this quiet confidence about him. Nothing seems to faze him.

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"It didn't surprise me because I was thinking about Teddy as well. There were some other names in and around there as well. It was overwhelming, that sort of surprised me.

"And then watching, he just has this nature where he doesn't say stuff until it needs it."

At the scrumbase meanwhile Nathan Cleary's retention has created all manner of noise, with everyone from Andrew Johns to Mitchell Pearce and back airing their thoughts on the selection.

Cleary himself has spoken of finding his voice on the paddock since Queensland's Origin I upset.

The 22-year-old is an undoubted introvert who has played his best footy alongside larger than life, if not stature, types like James Maloney, Jarome Luai, and potentially, now, Cody Walker.

Fittler also fits that bill.

And while he's not taking offence to Johns' assessment that it should be Cleary, not Luke Keary, taking a breather, the coach is backing his No.7 with quiet confidence.

"There's always criticism of NSW. At the moment [Cleary] is the strongest halfback in the competition," Fittler says.

"I think he has been performing. I'm not sure what everyone is reading into. I think our halves in general were a little disappointing (in Adelaide).

"But in the second half when we had no wind we were just bringing it off our line.

"The disappointment was the first half. I'm not that disappointed with him, I know a lot of people seem to be but I am just seeing a different story."

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On Origin II eve, the Blues are without talismanic skipper Cordner, bench utility forward Cameron Murray, bench utility back option Ryan Papenhuyzen and Wayne Bennett is questioning the Walker-Cleary shake-up on a shortened preparation as "not what you really want".

If the Blues keep the series alive, a trip to Suncorp for the decider awaits.

Against a Maroons side with Bennett at its helm, milking suggestions this is the worst Queensland side in 40 years for all they're worth.

In Perth last year Fittler made a host of changes too following a game one loss, weathering fallout from the decision to dump Latrell Mitchell among them.

But ask him if this is his biggest challenge to date?

"Yep… well it's the next one," Fittler pauses.

"There is a difference between do or die, we've got to win two, we just don't have the luxury of losing one now.

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"It's a great challenge without your skipper. No Cam Murray, it's a good challenge."

For Tedesco, the stakes rise in concert with his own responsibility.

He has watched Cordner lead at close club and state quarters, and is cut from a similar unassuming, understated cloth.

Neither stands accused of taking the two when one word will do.

Fittler expects him to have a better "poker face" when it comes to referee Gerard Sutton and any potential captain's challenges.

"He breathes a bit more than Boyd. I think Boyd's very emotional."

In those critical few moments underneath ANZ Stadium before kick-off, Tedesco's 'quiet confidence' could well be cast out of the Blues huddle.

As Fittler observes, Tedesco "doesn't say stuff". Until needed.

"Obviously Boyd was pretty inspirational in how we addressed our team with a lot of passion. I can take a few pointers on how he did it," Tedesco says.

"I won't write anything down, more just coming from the heart. I think that's where the players react a bit, when it's from the heart.

"In terms of pride I guess this will be right up there, representing NSW and leading us boys out, it gives me responsibility for this team.

"Some games I have been doing my own thing and just focusing on myself, but now I feel like I've got to lead the team around and be accountable."

 

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