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Stephen Crichton is ready to embrace NSW’s utility tag after Blues coach Brad Fittler sprung a surprise and named the Panthers centre on the bench for the series opener on June 8.

Crichton was caught off-guard about his bench role at a NSW media session on Monday morning with Fittler telling reporters of his team selections before the official side was released.

The Blues coach has opted for nine-game veteran Jack Wighton to start at left centre with Crichton to provide cover on the bench ahead of Sharks halfback Nicho Hynes.

Crichton is no stranger to a bench role after three appearances for the Panthers coming off the interchange to start the 2020 Telstra Premiership season.

However, since then the 21-year-old has been a mainstay on Penrith’s edge with two grand final appearances, one of which ended in a premiership win.

“I don’t mind where I play,” Crichton told NRL.com.

“Wherever the role the coach thinks I can help the team I’ll be willing to do it. I’ve played various positions so he’ll know where and when to put me on.

“It’s big shoes to fill but I'm really excited to lace up and take it with both hands. I’m just excited to be here, I’m lost for words. I want to use the opportunity and take that opportunity.”

Crichton has had some experience under Fittler in NSW camp before during the end-of-year Origin series in 2020 but he never got on the field.

Stephen Crichton (second from the left) poses alongside the potential 2022 Origin debutants in Coogee on Monday.
Stephen Crichton (second from the left) poses alongside the potential 2022 Origin debutants in Coogee on Monday. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

“I took a lot out of it, even just being around the group it helps with confidence and learning what they do off the field with extra stretching and extra ice baths,” Crichton said.

“It goes a long way to how they perform. It shows the players who get picked every year it shows they do all the little things right so when it comes to game time it comes natural as well.

“I’ve implemented a few of those things in the game.”

Crichton was on his way to church on Sunday morning when Fittler gave him a call to give him the good news.

His mum, Sina, broke down in tears as Fittler spoke to her son through the car’s loudspeaker.

“His number came up on my phone and I was nervous excited to answer it,” he said.

“I shed a few tears as well. It’s hard not to, it’s a special moment and good experience to have them there as well.”

 

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