While Anthony Minichiello admits former skipper Boyd Cordner's 2021 Ampol State of Origin absence is a major blow for NSW, he is backing what he believes is the Blues' greatest era of fullbacks to help reclaim the interstate title.
Former NSW No.1 Minichiello admitted he was gutted by the news that ex-Sydney Roosters teammate Cordner had been ruled out of this year's Origin series by coach Brad Fittler as the veteran backrower planned his NRL return from a head knock suffered in the 2020 interstate opener.
Sidelined since Origin I late last year due to concussion concerns, Cordner had been preparing to make his long-awaited return and run out for the Roosters by round 14 but won't be considered by Fittler for the entire Origin series starting on June 9.
While head knock issues appear to have jeopardised Cordner's career, Minichiello backed the gutsy edge forward to make a successful return in not only the NRL but also the Origin arena.
"That's a blow no doubt, he's the captain," Minichiello told NRL.com on Cordner's NSW unavailability.
"I know Boyd will be hurting about that because he still believes he can come back and offer something special for the Roosters and hopefully in rep footy in the future.
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"But he has to make sure he is right to go.
"He is taking all the precautions. Hopefully he plays out the rest of the season with the Roosters and everything goes well and next year he can look at rep footy again."
However, Minichiello - who played 11 Origins - was still quietly confident of NSW sealing their third series triumph in four years by unleashing what he believes is the greatest batch of fullbacks in Blues history.
He backed Fittler's call that Roosters superstar James Tedesco was still NSW's best No.1 option despite Manly danger man Tom Trbojevic's sensational NRL return.
Remarkably Trbojevic has produced five tries, nine try assists and more than 20 tackle busts in four rounds.
"Teddy for me is No.1 (for NSW). His consistency year after year has outshone anyone," Minichiello said.
"Tommy is an absolute freak as well but he will be in the team somewhere no doubt.
"He has played centre, he can play wing. You will have him in the side no worries what the position because he can just slot in, fit naturally into any position Freddy wants him in."
Behind the scenes with JT
However, Minichiello was adamant Fittler should find a spot for not only Trbojevic but also other form fullbacks Clint Gutherson of Parramatta, Melbourne's Ryan Papenhuyzen and South Sydney's Latrell Mitchell in NSW's 17 for them to be successful.
"This has probably been the best for (NSW) fullbacks of any era," he said.
"Any of them - Teddy, Gutho, Tommy, etc - can turn a game on its head at any point in the match.
"Fullback is such an important position now on the field but the current crop of fullback is amazing (for NSW).
"It's a pretty special era for fullbacks at the moment."
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