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Reagan Campbell-Gillard's continued absence from the NSW Blues squad has prompted coach Brad Fittler to publicly quash rumours an attitude problem is keeping the Parramatta Eels star out.
After playing in Game I, Campbell-Gillard was dropped for the Blues' Origin II win in Perth, before being overlooked for the Wednesday night decider despite NSW being wracked with injuries.
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Instead, Newcastle Knights forward Jacob Saifiti has been brought in to make his State of Origin debut in the decider, prompting some to label his selection ahead of the more experienced Campbell-Gillard 'very fishy'.
Fittler was having none of it on Monday, quickly declaring it had been his call to make the selection, and that other factors were at play.
The problem was not Campbell-Gillard's form according to Fittler, but his style of play not quite meshing with what he wanted the Blues to do.
“It was my call. I think Reagan just has a style of footy and right now mostly he doesn’t suit the way we want to play," he said.
“But I love the way he’s gone back to Parramatta. He’s doing some really good things. So I wish him all the best.
“I was my decision to go with Jacob. I’ve always been very open and clear with Reagan and we spoke about his footy and what we need at different times, and it was my decision.”
This explanation didn't wash with the Daily Telegraph's Phil Rothfield, who told Big Sports Breakfast the discrepancy between Saifiti and Campbell-Gillard's games at club level was stark.
“I don’t want to be critical of a debutant for the NSW side because they’ve dreamt of putting that NSW jersey on ... but I do not understand Jacob Saifiti being in that side as a replacement for Jordan McLean ahead of Reagan Campbell-Gillard,” Rothfield said on the Big Sports Breakfast on Monday.
“Statistics are not everything but you look at what they’ve done at club level this year — Campbell-Gillard 135m a game, Saifiti 83m. Campbell-Gillard has made 13 tackle busts for the Parramatta Eels, Saifiti just one
“I still say there’s something very, very fishy going on about Campbell-Gillard’s non-selection in that side. I thought he played strongly for Parramatta against the Wests Tigers on the weekend.”
NSW hoping to secure rare Origin victory in Queensland
The Blues have an ugly record in winner-takes-all Origin contests, having won just one of the last nine series deciders.
Tedesco was the man who scored the winning try in that sole victory - in 2019 in Sydney - but he describes winning in Brisbane in Origin III as "a different beast".
The Blues have won just two deciders in Brisbane in the history of the three-game series.
Tedesco has the chance to join Laurie Daley (1994) and Danny Buderus (2005) as the only NSW captains to clinch the series in game three in the Maroons' backyard.
"I know it was done in 1994 and 2005 and some of those boys have come and talked to us about how it's a different beast out there," Tedesco told AAP.
"It's a great opportunity for us. It hasn't been won by NSW up there (at Suncorp) for a long time.
"I'm happy as captain in how we've gone in training.
"It's a different preparation and every game is different but I feel like we learned a lot of lessons from the first two games.
"Although we had a really good performance (in the game two win in Perth), we still know we can get better."
There was once a time when Suncorp was the graveyard of the hopes of NSW teams.
Since 1998 the Maroons have never lost back-to-back games there.
But after a 26-0 victory in game two at Suncorp last year the Blues have a chance to mark their territory north of the Tweed after playing the entirety of the 2021 series in Queensland.
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