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18th man conundrum for Origin coaches

NSW and Queensland officials are awaiting details around the status of the 18th man in State of Origin before finalising preparations for their team camps ahead of the series opener at the MCG on June 9.

The squads for Origin I will be named on May 31 and this year's series is the first in which the Blues and Maroons will carry an 18th man after the ARLC recently approved teams using an extra reserve if they have a players ruled out by foul play or lose three to HIAs in a game.

However, it is yet to be decided whether each state's nominated 18th man can remain in camp with the for the duration leading up to Origin or return to his club for their match on the weekend.

The Dragons, Broncos, Wests Tigers, Panthers, Storm, Titans, Knights and Eels play the weekend before Origin I and if NSW coach Brad Fittler was to select Clint Gutherson as 18th man he would need to know whether the Parramatta skipper has to return to his club for the match.  

"We are seeking clarity about whether they are stood down from playing the weekend prior to the game, what their payment status is and how the whole 18th man process works," NSWRL CEO David Trodden said.

New Queensland coach Paul Green said he wasn't sure of the selection process for the 18th man.

Green ready for Maroons challenge

Due to the uncertainty over if or when an 18th man may be called upon during each match, officials believe it is unfair to ask a player to play for his club on the weekend and potentially back up in Origin the following Wednesday night.

Neither state wants to be restricted to picking a fresh 18th man from the teams with the bye before each Origin.

The introduction of an 18th man in Origin will provide a unique selection decision for Green and NSW coach Brad Fittler as the player could be called upon at any time and be required to cover any position.

Yet if the teams choose a utility on the interchange bench they may not want another player who can cover multiple positions and someone like Penrith's Kurt Capewell, who can play second-row or centre, may be better suited.

However, Capewell is almost certain to be in Queensland's 17 man squad either at centre, second-row or on the interchange.


New Queensland coach Paul Green has vowed not to speak publicly about players in contention for Maroons selection but he said Sydney Roosters forward Lindsay Collins would be a loss.

Collins made his Origin debut in last year's series and played all three matches for the victorious Maroons but has been sidelined for the remainder of this season after rupturing his ACL in last Saturday night's defeat of Newcastle.

"When people ask me about players my answer is that we haven't selected the team yet but Lindsay had a really good debut series last year and started this season well so he certainly would have been in the conversation," Green said.

The 25-year-old prop is the fourth player ruled out of contention for Green, with Roosters hooker Jake Friend and North Queensland playmaker Michael Morgan forced into retirement this season and Melbourne centre Brenko Lee yet to play a match due to injuries.

Fittler reacts to Green’s expected Maroons appointment

However, the Maroons have been bolstered by the return of Newcastle fullback Kalyn Ponga and Gold Coast second-rower David Fifita after both missed last year's series triumph.

The loss of Morgan and Lee exposes Queensland depth in the centres and Canterbury's Corey Allan or Penrith's Kurt Capewell may be required to fill one spot with South Sydney's Dane Gagai likely to be the other.

Capewell started at centre in the first two matches of last year's series before being selected in his first familiar second-row spot for the series decider, while Allan has played the last four matches in the centres for the Bulldogs

Besides Ponga and Fifita, the rest of the Maroons squad is expected to be drawn from the 20 players used in last year's series who are still available for selection.

"I said when I got the job that the positive was that those guys have got the Origin experience and most of them did the job in Origin level so you have confidence if you have to select them again," Green said.

Possible Queensland squad: Kalyn Ponga; Xavier Coates, Dane Gagai, Kurt Capewell, Valentine Holmes; Cameron Munster, Daly Cherry-Evans; Josh Papali'i, Harry Grant, Christian Welch, David Fifita, Felise Kaufusi, Tino Fa'asuamaleaui. Interchange: Jaydn Su'a, Jai Arrow, Moeaki Fotuaika, Ben Hunt. 18th man: AJ Brimson


NSW coach Brad Fittler faces selection headaches over star fullbacks James Tedesco, Ryan Papenhuyzen, Tom Trbojevic, Latrell Mitchell and Clint Gutherson and locks Cameron Murray, Jake Trbojevic, Victor Radley, Dale Finucane, Isaah Yeo and Nathan Brown.

The Blues will be without captain Boyd Cordner, who has not played since suffering a concussion in the opening match of last year's series, and Roosters teammate Luke Keary after the star five-eighth suffered a season ending knee injury in round three.

However, Fittler now has Tom Trbojevic, Mitchell and Radley at his disposal, while Papenhuyzen was unavailable until last October's series decider due to an injury suffered in the grand final and missed his Origin debut.

NSW coach Brad Fittler.
NSW coach Brad Fittler. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

With Tedesco set to captain the team from fullback, Mitchell, Trbojevic, Gutherson and Papenhuyzen are likely to be considered for centre, wing or bench spots.

Gutherson and Jack Wighton were the NSW centres in last year's series but the latter plays five-eighth for Canberra and could also come under consideration for the No.6 jersey, along with South Sydney's Cody Walker and Penrith's Jarome Luai.

The Blues are spoilt for choice in the lock position and Fittler is likely to need to make a selection decision on Murray without the Rabbitohs star playing again before Origin after suffering an ankle injury in last weekend's defeat of Canberra.

Radley can cover hooker if Damien Cook was unable to play the full 80 minutes so is likely to have an edge on his rivals for selection in the 17-man squad.

Penrith second-rower Liam Martin may also come into consideration in the absence of Cordner.

Possible NSW team: James Tedesco; Josh Addo-Carr, Jack Wighton, Latrell Mitchell, Tom Trbojevic; Cody Walker, Nathan Cleary; Payne Haas, Damien Cook, Daniel Saifiti, Tyson Frizell, Angus Crichton, Jake Trbojevic. Interchange: Ryan Papenhuyzen, Victor Radley, Dale Finucane, Junior Paulo. 18th man: Clint Gutherson.


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