Maroons selector leaves door open for Fifita

Queensland selector Darren Lockyer says the door is wide open for David Fifita to make a return to the Maroons, should he return to his damaging best.

New coach Billy Slater on Monday made sweeping changes to last year’s losing side, leaving out the big-money Titans back-rower, who’s struggled with his form while also under an injury cloud with an MCL concern.

The rampaging forward has had a rollercoaster season in 2022, with Titans coach Justin Holbrook attempting to find different ways to get the best out of the big man, including positional changes, with the back-rower spending time at center and off the interchange as an impact player.

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Lockyer didn’t think it was a surprise that Fifita was left out, but added that the door was open for the 22-year-old to regain form and earn selection again.

“Given he’s been out injured, his match fitness is down, he’s still carrying an injury…I don’t think it’s a big surprise [he has been left out]’Lockyer told Wide World of Sports’ QLDER.

“David would know he’s got a bit of work to do in terms of his game.

“I think if the Titans are playing well and he’s fully fit, and doing the little things well, he’s definitely not out of the equation at all.

“Unfortunately going to the Titans on the contract he’s on, people are going to be critical all the time.

“There’s no doubt there are a few players out there disappointed they didn’t make the squad, but now is the time to show us how you respond to that.

“One-hundred per cent [he can be picked for games two and three], he’s just underdone and the Titans aren’t going that great… you don’t know what’s around the corner. Things can change in a week in this game.”

2022 SERIES FIXTURE

Origin I: Wednesday, June 8, kick off time 8.10pm AEST (QLD, NSW, Victoria) – Accor Stadium, Sydney

Origin II: Sunday, June 26, kick off time 7.50pm AEST (QLD, NSW, Victoria) – Optus Stadium, Perth

Origin III: Wednesday, July 13, kick off time 8.10pm AEST (NSW, QLD, Victoria) – Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

GAME I TICKETS

Tickets for game one and the entire series can be purchased via the NRL’s authorized ticketing partner, TICKETEK.

Game one tickets start from $45.00

HOW TO WATCH

Game one and the entire series will be live and exclusive on Nine.

Coverage for game one will start at 7pm (AEST) and wrap up with a post-game show until 11pm. You can also stream the match free on 9Now.

You can also follow the action with Wide World of Sports’ match center as well as the live blog, featuring expert opinions and live reactions from Nine’s NRL commentators.

TEAMS FOR ORIGIN I

**Final teams will be confirmed one hour before kick-off

Blues: 1. James Tedesco 2. Brian To’o 3. Kotoni Staggs 4. Jack Wighton 5. Daniel Tupou 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Payne Haas 9. Damien Cook 10. Junior Paulo 11. Cameron Murray 12. Tariq Sims 13. isaah yeo 14. Stephen Crichton 15. Liam Martin 16. Reagan Campbell Gillard 17. Ryan Matterson 18. Nicho Hynes 19. Tyson Frizell 20. Jacob Saifiti 21. Joseph Suaalii 22. Apisai Koroisau

coach:Brad Fittler

Click here for more news on squad selection

Maroons: 1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Selwyn Cobbo 3. Valentine Holmes 4. Dane Gagai 5. Xavier Coates 6. Cameron Munster 7. Daly Cherry Evans 8. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui 9. Ben Hunt 10. Josh Papali’i 11. Kurt Capewell 12. Felise Kaufusi 13. Reuben Cotter 14. Harry Grant 15. Lindsay Collins 16. Patrick Carrigan 17. Jeremiah Nanai 18. Thomas Dearden 19. Jai Arrow 20. Thomas Flegler 21. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 22. Murray Taulagi

coach: Billy Slater

Click here for more news on squad selection

ORIGIN I MATCH OFFICIALS

Ashley Klein will be the chief referee on the field for the ninth time in his career.

The two touch judges are Phil Henderson and David Munro, while Grant Atkins will take charge as the lead Bunker official.

ORIGIN I PRE-MATCH ENTERTAINMENT

TBC

ODDS (courtesy of Sportsbet)

Origin I: Blues $1.60; Maroons $2.35

2021 STATE OF ORIGIN RESULTS

Origin I: NSW 50d QLD 6

Origin II: NSW 26d QLD 0

Origin III: QLD 20 d NSW 18

Series result: NSW 2-1

TALKING POINTS

The New South Wales Blues will once again head into the series opener as the favorites having won three of the past four Origin series under coach Brad Fittler.

But all signs point to this year’s series being one of the most competitive in recent times, with the Blues far from certainties to keep the dominance going.

Fittler’s side will take the field for game one without reigning Dally M Medal winner and center Tom Trbojevic, who has been ruled out for the season with a shoulder injury, while opposite center Latrell Mitchell is out for the series opener with a hamstring injury.

Those injured will see debutant Kotoni Staggs and 2021 Dally M Medal winner Jack Wighton taking on the responsibility of filling the void in the centres.

While Wighton is a former Dally M winner at five-eighth, his effectiveness as an Origin center continues to leave NRL pundits with question marks, after he and Eels fullback Clint Gutherson fell short of expectations in the Blues’ 2020 losing series filling those positions.

Brad Fittler speaks after naming his Blues squad for game one

Meanwhile, it’s a new era for the Maroons under former star and new coach Billy Slater, who this year takes over from former Cowboys premiership winner Paul Green.

Slater has made sweeping changes to last year’s losing side.

The former Maroons fullback has named four debutants in jerseys 1-17, including Broncos pair Selwyn Cobbo and Patrick Carrigan, as well as Reuben Cotter and Jeremiah Nanai from the Cowboys.

Cobbo and Nanai, who are both aged 19, will make their Origin debuts with less than 20 NRL games under their belts.

The pair have been arguably the most exciting young stars of the competition this season.

Cobbo, who’s spent this year on the wing for the Broncos, has scored eight tries in his last four games.

Nanai, meanwhile, has been a try-scoring machine for the Cowboys with 10 through 12 appearances this year.

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