2022-07-04 23:49:00

A clear shift in tactics from Brad Fittler and the Blues sealed Jack Wighton’s fate after the Raiders star was a shock omission for the State of Origin decider.

The Blues went into Game 1 with Damien Cook at No.9 and no back up hooker on the bench.

Queensland, meanwhile, started Ben Hunt while Harry Grant came off the bench and had an immediate impact against tiring Blues defenders as the Maroons ambushed NSW in Sydney.

Fittler responded by adding Panthers hooker Api Koroisau to the starting side while Cook shifted to the bench for Game 2. It proved a masterstroke as the Blues levelled the series in Perth.

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What it meant, however, was no place for Wighton on the bench for Game 3 once Fittler decided to stick with Stephen Crichton and Matt Burton in the centres.

This was despte Wighton being among the Blues’ best players in the series opener and only missing the clash at Optus Stadium after contracting Covid.

“That was a tough one. Sifa (Talakai), the versatility he gives us on the bench was the reason we went with Sifa instead of Jack,” Fittler said on Monday.

“We considered [playing Wighton at centre] but I think what Matt did in the second game just offered a little bit more. What Jack brings is very different to what Matt brings.

“We’ve got two really young centres there. It’s a really tough position to play and we’ve most probably been a little bit vulnerable there, so we’ve got some work to do.”

NSW advisor Greg Alexander shed more light on the decision when he appeared on NRL360 on Monday night.

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“It certainly wasn’t something taken lightly and there was plenty of discussion last night when the round was finished,” he said on NRL360.

“When we decided Stepen (Crichton) was going to stay in the centres with Matt Burton it was a question of who could fill a spot on the bench.

“The fact we have a hooker on the bench had us leaning towards a player who could not only play centre but also in the back row.”

Responding to Alexander, the Daily Telegraph’s David Riccio agreed the Blues couldn’t afford to pick Wighton if he wasn’t going to start.

“For me I can’t see how you get Wighton on the bench that already Damien Cook there and you lose another forward,” he said.

“You can’t have cook and wighton on the bench.”

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Source by [graycupnews.com]


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