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Fittler ends fullback speculation for Origin series

Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler has moved to end speculation over who will wear the No.1 jumper for the Ampol State of Origin series; declaring incumbent fullback and NSW captain James Tedesco as the man for the job.

While there is much admiration – and Fittler calls himself a big fan as well – for the figures Ryan Papanehuyzen produces each week for the Melbourne Storm, the coach won’t be making any changes for the series opener on 8 June at Sydney’s Accor Stadium.

Tedesco has been outstanding for the Sydney Roosters as they look to find their best form; running for 312 metres in the Anzac Day game against St George Illawarra and backing that up with 299 metres against Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs on Saturday night.

“James Tedesco is our captain, so if he's fit and healthy, he will be our fullback,” Fittler told Channel Nine’s Sunday Footy Show.

But that won’t hurt Papenhuyzen’s chances of making his Blues debut. He came close to doing that in 2020 after being named in an extended squad and was in the frame again last year before concussion issues saw him take a lengthy break away from the game.

Fittler said he was keeping a close eye on the Melbourne fullback and deemed him the best player in the NRL when it comes to being the man on the spot at the right time.

“He has the ability to turn opportunities all over the field - not just off the dummy half, but off wingers, off centres, he creates tries,” Fittler said.

“If you’re getting good ball, then Ryan Papenhuyzen is the most dangerous person in the competition.”

Papenhuyzen now has 10 tries from eight rounds along with six try-assists and seven line-breaks. He made his NRL debut in 2019 and played 13 games that year as the Storm’s utility off the bench.

There will be plenty of debate over who Fittler should pick as his bench utility this year with Sharks halfback Nicho Hynes, and Canberra’s 2019 Clive Churchill Medal winner and NSW Blues incumbent No.14, Jack Wighton, as other options.

“The biggest thing he (Papenhuyzen) has on his side is that he played so long in the No.14 role… and look we’ve got to decide on that,” Fittler said.

“He has the ability to play a few positions.”

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