Freddy’s massive dilemma for Origin decider

NRL great PAUL GALLEN will appear on Nine’s 100% FOOTY every Monday night of the NRL season, debating rugby league’s hottest topics alongside Phil Gould and James Bracey. Tune in tonight at 8:30pm (AEDT) on 9GO! as the panel wraps up State of Origin II!

We have a decision on July 13 at Suncorp Stadium, and already I can’t wait for it.

I don’t expect Queensland to make too many changes to the side that lost game two, and to be honest I’m not really fussed what they do.

My biggest concern is New South Wales and what they do for game three, because coach Brad Fittler has some big decisions to make, and it’s all about what to do with the center pairing.

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Injury, illness and form has meant the Blues have used six different centers in the last three Origin matches – Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trbojevic (game three, 2021), Kotoni Staggs and Jack Wighton (game one, 2022) and Matt Burton and Stephen Crichton (game two, 2022).

Burton was superb in Perth and Crichton did nothing wrong either, but there’s every chance Mitchell and Wighton will be available for Suncorp Stadium.

It’s going to be a big call, Latrell is an out-and-out superstar who has excelled at Origin level before, and Wighton was arguably the best for New South Wales in game one.

I don’t know what they do, I really don’t.

All I can do is put all my faith in the decision Freddy makes, we’ve got to back his judgment 100 per cent. We’ve done that for the last few years and he’s come up trumps in three of the four series he coached.

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Freddy has to do what he believes is best, and at the end of the day it’s what he’ll be judged on. It’s almost a no-win situation for him, which is what is so hard about the decision, and it’s why coaches are always under pressure.

If he changes the side and they don’t win, everyone will question the call to make the change. They’ll say he should have stuck with the combination that won game two. But if he doesn’t make the change and they don’t win, well, he’ll be questioned as to why he didn’t pick a proven star like Latrell.

The only way out of it for Freddy is to win the series, I feel sorry for the position he’s in, but making calls like this is what coaching is all about.

It will be interesting to see how both Mitchell and Wighton go in club football between now and selection time. Wighton had COVID-19, and you never know with that, some players bounce back as though nothing has happened, others struggle for a month or two to get back to their best. So that might be a factor, and you’ve got to remember Latrell hasn’t played for a long time either because of his injury.

Freddy will take all of that into account, but at the end of the day the result of game three will determine whether he made the right call or not.

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As far as I’m concerned, game two was won in the middle, and early on. Jake Trbojevic wasn’t man of the match, but he must have been closed. He was the difference for me. He really stiffened the New South Wales defence. The Blues had so much ball-playing ability in game one, but I thought they weren’t quite tough enough through the middle, and that’s exactly what Jake brings.

From the kick-off he just came in and snapped blokes in half, and he did it until the full time siren. He hurt the Queenslanders from the opening set, he was outstanding.

A lot has been made of the Felise Kaufusi sin binning, but I don’t understand how anyone can question Ashley Klein’s call. It was a sin binning every day of the week. The way the game is played, you can’t keep blowing penalties without eventually sending someone to the bin.

Everyone knows that. The players know it and the fans know it. It’s what the game is these days.

Yes, it went in favor of New South Wales, but it was a case of intentionally holding the player down. It was clear cut.

Blues score immediately after sin bin

I don’t think the scoreboard blow-out in the second half matters one bit in terms of game three. It was great for New South Wales, and they would have loved to run in the half-century and embarrass Queensland even more, but that’s done now, it’s history.

We saw in 2020 the Blues had a really big win in game two (34-10) to level the series, and then went to Suncorp Stadium for the decider and got beaten.

What happened last night simply doesn’t matter once the whistle blows to start game three. Playing at Suncorp Stadium is a whole different beast, Queensland grows an extra leg, you can’t hear each other on the field. That ground is a sacred place for the Queensland team, and Billy Slater will ram that fact home to his team over the next few weeks.

As good as the scoreline was last night, New South Wales has to remember it’s back to 0-0 when game three kicks off, it’s not a continuation of game two.

Brad Fittler will know that, in fact I’m sure he would have told the team that last night. What happened last night counts for nothing if they can’t win game three.

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It’s a big ask for New South Wales to win a decider at Suncorp Stadium, it hasn’t happened since 2005.

Wally Lewis said on Today that Queensland will need to improve significantly for game three, and that’s absolutely a fair assessment.

I thought that even after game one. I know New South Wales lost game one, but I thought the way the Blues played game one wasn’t good, they were always going to be much better this time around.

I also thought it was going to be a huge ask for Queensland to play the way they did in game one. They brained New South Wales in game one, but I didn’t think they could repeat that. You can’t play the best game of your life every single week.

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New South Wales played to their potential in game two. I said on radio before the match the Blues would win well. I certainly didn’t expect them to score 44 points, but I expected a 12-14 point win if they played as well as I knew they could.

There’s no doubt Queensland will be more dangerous at Suncorp. While they obviously wanted to win last night to wrap it up, they always had that safety net in the back of their mind, the knowledge that they had game three if they needed it.

That safety net is gone, so I expect an improved performance in game three.

New South Wales was terrible in game one, and what we saw in game two was a better representation of the team.

If they do that again in game three they’ll win the series.

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