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Fittler leaning towards experience for pivotal decision

Jarome Luai's red-hot form looks unlikely to be rewarded with the NSW No.6 jersey with Blues coach Brad Fittler indicating past experience at Origin level will be looked upon favourably.

The intriguing three-way battle for the halves berth alongside Penrith star Nathan Cleary in the Ampol State of Origin Series will go down to the wire with Luai up against incumbent five-eighth Cody Walker and Canberra star Jack Wighton.

Speaking at the series launch in Melbourne on Wednesday, Fittler refused to commit to one of the trio, but indicated that past Origin experience would count.

Wighton, last year's Dally M Medal winner, has featured in all six games in the past two years but is yet to get a run at five-eighth after being chosen of position at centre.

At 31, Walker is the elder statesman of the trio, and continues to be an influential player for the Rabbitohs.

The wildcard option is Luai, who is rising in stature with the all-conquering Panthers and his combination with Cleary has prompted many experts to call for the teammates to combine for their state.

Sleight of hand from Luai sends Burton through a gap

"I'm not set in my mind at all, purely because the game changes so quickly week to week with injuries and so forth," he said.

"I love watching the Penrith halves play together because they're just so exciting and they're so new and fresh.

"You realise State of Origin is a different game - Jack Wighton and Cody Walker have played it before - and having that experience definitely helps on the big stage."

Every try from Round 7

Naturally, the Victorian media quizzed Fittler on the possibility of Melbourne Storm sensation Ryan Papenhuyzen potentially usurping James Tedesco at fullback.

As it stands, Tedesco is set to remain Fittler's man at the back, but he is still expecting Papenhuyzen to play a huge role in the Blues jersey this series, but it is likely he will be used as a bench utility.

"He's just shown, not just what he's done this year, but what he's done with Craig [Bellamy] and the [Storm] team over the last couple of years, being able to play a few different positions helps him unbelievably," Fittler said.

"That's mostly the key to Ryan, him coming into the representative teams, is the fact he did so well playing other positions.

"He seems to do everything laid out in front of him Ryan."

Another fullback that Fittler will look to squeeze into his squad somewhere is Manly star Tom Trbojevic, who has been instrumental in reviving the Sea Eagles' season since his recent return from a hamstring tear.

Turbo gets a try of his own

"I think they've scored 76 points in two weeks and they scored 40-odd in five weeks [prior] - it says a lot about Tom," Fittler said.

"I think just the manner in which he plays, he plays on the front row and then he sweeps around like a Ryan Papenhuyzen, he looks like a James Tedesco - he's like three or four players in one."

With Origin a post-NRL season event last year, it was only just over five months ago that Queensland hoisted the shield as champions.

Despite that, new Maroons coach Paul Green is embracing the underdogs tag.

"They've got a great talent pool to pick from, but we've also got our fair share of great players," he said.

"I think most series we'll be underdogs and this year will be the same, but we're OK with that."

Munny-ball to Addo-Carr

Barring injuries, the Maroons team will be settled around halves Daly Cherry-Evans and Cameron Munster.

The big question will be at hooker with Storm young gun Harry Grant, Dragons captain Ben Hunt and Parramatta rake Reed Mahoney in contention.

Green has an idea of the way he will go, but he would not let the cat out of the bag just yet.

"In terms of selection, I've got a general idea of what the team will look like, but there's still a fair bit of footy to be played, so we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

 

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