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NSW coach Brad Fittler has admitted that members of the Blues camp may have their State of Origin futures on the line at Accor Stadium next Wednesday night – including himself.

After making seven changes to the team which lost the series in Origin II at Suncorp Stadium on June 21, Fittler insisted his only focus was stopping Queensland achieving a rare clean-sweep and he was not looking to next season.

However, with the Maroons winning in 2020, 2022 and 2023, he conceded the positions of long serving players, such as James Tedesco and Isaah Yeo, were now under scrutiny – along with his own.

Blues coach Brad Fittler and captain James Tedesco
Blues coach Brad Fittler and captain James Tedesco ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

Asked if it was fair to suggest some players were now playing for their Origin futures, Fittler said: “Absolutely. And a coach”.

While insisting he was still the best man to take charge of the Blues next season, the former NSW captain is preparing for his 49th Origin as a coach or player aware that it may be his last.

However, at this stage there are no obvious candidates to replace him and if the Blues can save face in Origin III he may still be re-appointed. 

In contrast, Tedesco is under pressure from Penrith’s Dylan Edwards, Parramatta’s Clint Gutherson and North Queensland’s Scott Drinkwater, while Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trbojevic play fullback for their clubs.

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“Whether I coach or not again in the future hasn't been spoken about yet and it won't be until months away,” Fittler said.

“But obviously Teddy needs a big game and there's a few players that could really relish a big game here to kick-start their season – and to kickstart the Blues again, as well.

“I think that’s important. We got beat last year, as well, so we are coming off a couple of series losses and it hasn't been great recently.”

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Despite Tedesco being below his best, Fittler insisted he had not considered dropping the Roosters fullback, who inherited the NSW captaincy during the 2020 series and led Australia to victory at last year’s World Cup in England.

“Obviously Gutho is playing some really good footy and I think Scott Drinkwater is incredibly exciting, but who was it for,” Fittler said.

“Dylan is going great, he is going really good, and he is most probably so much like Teddy that that is the position he takes if he pushes in.

“I'm not sure if Turbo was in the form of a couple of years ago, then all of a sudden you could say, ‘well, you know what?’...

“I think Teddy – and he most probably agrees too - is at that age where you either finish really strong, and find a way through it … or he is coming to a tough time, so he can understand that.”

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Yeo has been shifted to the interchange, with South Sydney’s Cameron Murray to start at lock, while senior forwards Junior Paulo and Tyson Frizell were dropped, along with second-rower Hudson Young and prop Stefano Utoikamanu.

Rabbitohs strike forward Keaon Koloamatangi will start alongside Martin in the second-row, with Kangaroos props Jake Trbojevic and Reagan Campbell-Gillard the new front-rowers.

Fittler said the form of Panthers second-rower Liam Martin, who will start in Origin III after coming off the interchange in the first two matches, had forced changes to the forward pack.

Keaon Koloamatangi will make his Origin debut in the second-row
Keaon Koloamatangi will make his Origin debut in the second-row ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

“We were playing Hudson for a certain period and then the idea was for Liam to go on so, if anything, I think Liam’s form forced us to take a second rower out,” Fittler said.

“Keaon then goes to the right side, so we are just giving Keaon an opportunity. His form for a couple of years has been really good.

“There's a few blokes who get an opportunity because it's the last game, but at the end of the day, I think it was more Liam Martin just sort of forcing our hand a little bit. He just plays 80 minutes.”

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