New South Wales coach Brad Fittler has ruled a line through Ryan Papenhuyzen making his State of Origin debut at fullback.
That’s as long as Roosters superstar James Tedesco is fit and available for selection ahead of the June 8 series opener in Sydney.
Tedesco has been down on form this season and his Chooks have copped two upset losses in a row, falling to the Dragons and Bulldogs in consecutive weeks.
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Papenhuyzen, on the other hand, couldn’t do much more to oust Tedesco from the Blues No.1 spot.
The mullet-haired fullback has helped Melbourne to two huge wins on the trot, belting the Warriors and Knights in what has been an exceptional fortnight for Craig Bellamy’s men.
Fittler was asked on Nine’s Sunday Footy Show whether he is tempted to pick Papenhuyzen ahead of Tedesco for Origin.
“James Tedesco is our captain,” Fittler responded.
He was asked again by Footy Show host Danika Mason.
“James Tedesco is our captain, so if he’s fit and healthy he will be our fullback.”
The statement will be a dagger to the heart of Papenhuyzen, who has arguably been the best fullback in the NRL this season.
Tedesco, on the other hand, has struggled to reach the form expected of his as one of the game’s genuine superstars.
Queensland coach Billy Slater seemed surprised Fittler will basically refuse to consider picking Papenhuyzen at fullback.
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The Storm gun will still be in the mix for a bench role.
“I work with Paps down there (at Melbourne) and he is seeing the game so well,” Slater said.
“He’s a hell of a player, he’s tough, he always wants to be in the game. He’s doing some great things at Melbourne.”
Latrell Mitchell, meanwhile, looks certain to miss the Origin opener.
He will fly to America to work with a renowned sports medical expert, and isn’t due to land back in Australia until June 2.
“He was always cutting it fine for Origin I, and the likelihood of him getting a game before Origin I was always slim at best,” South Sydney coach Jason Demetriou told the Sydney Morning Herald.
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