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Brad Fittler's failed plan laid bare in startling detail about NSW team for State of Origin 2

Only three of Brad Fittler's 'new generation' of Blues will take the field for NSW in Game 2 in 2024.

As NSW gears up for a must-win Origin match in Melbourne on Wednesday, Blues fans are once again hoping that their side can turn around a Game 1 defeat. For more than a decade Queensland has dominated State of Origin series after series and each year NSW fans go in full of hope that they can kickstart a run of dominance over their rival.

As Michael Maguire's Blues head to the MCG for the first time in six years, highlights from the last Origin game at the famous Melbourne ground have been doing the rounds. And it shows just how different the NSW side looks in 2024. A look at the Blues team picture from that night exposes how Brad Fittler's new generation of Blues, who were supposed to be NSW's answer to 11 long years of Queensland State of Origin dominance, never quite worked out.

Pictured: Brad Fittler's Game 1 team in 2018: Latrell Mitchell, Jake Trbojevic and Angus Crichton L-R circled
Only three players from Brad Fittler's first Blues team (Latrell Mitchell, Jake Trbojevic and Angus Crichton L-R circled) selected in 2018 will play in Game 2 in 2024. Image: Getty

Six years on from NSW's last trip to the MCG, precious few of Fittler's rookies will be back in Melbourne this time around. The 2018 series may feel like a lifetime ago for NSW, but Game 1 that year was supposed to be the start of a new era for the Blues under rookie coach and NRL great Fittler.

There were 11 debutants at the MCG, as NSW fielded their least-experienced Origin team since 1983 and won 22-12 before clinching the series in Game 2. Many believed it was a signal of an overdue run of NSW series wins but in the five years that followed, Queensland won three series.

And now as NSW begins the new Maguire era, there's little trace of those rookies who promised so much at the start of Fittler's reign. Of the 11 men who played their first Origin in Melbourne on June 6, 2018, only Angus Crichton and Latrell Mitchell will take the field on Wednesday night. While Jake Trbojevic is the only other player from Fittler's first team who features in Maguire's side for Game 1.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 24: James Roberts of the Blues looks dejected as he leaves the field after being sin-binned during game two of the State of Origin series between the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons at ANZ Stadium on June 24, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
James Roberts is one of a host of Brad Fittler's Blues team that didn't go on with it.

However, Nathan Cleary - who has been NSW's first-choice halfback since his debut in 2018 - would almost certainly be in the lineup if he was fit. And Manly star Tom Trbojevic also would have likely had a place in the team if he was available.

The majority though, have rapidly declined and arguably none more than James Roberts. Roberts is currently playing in the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League while another player who came into the Blues fold with lofty aspirations, Paul Vaughan, is now in the Super League.

1. James Tedesco 2. Josh Addo-Carr 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. James Roberts 5. Tom Trbojevic 6. James Maloney 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Damien Cook 10. David Klemmer 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Tyson Frizell 13. Jack De Belin 14. Paul Vaughan 15. Jake Trbojevic 16. Angus Crichton 17. Tyrone Peachey

1. Dylan Edwards 2. Brian To’o 3. Stephen Crichton 4. Latrell Mitchell 5. Zac Lomax 6. Jarome Luai 7. Mitch Moses 8. Jake Trbojevic 9. Reece Robson 10. Payne Haas 11. Liam Martin 12. Angus Crichton 13. Cameron Murray 14. Connor Watson 15. Isaah Yeo 16. Haumole Olakau’atu 17. Spencer Leniu

Under Maguire's lead NSW players say there is a sense that the side is again entering a new chapter. Almost none of Fittler's players or coaching and back-room staff remain in the camp. And Maguire has put his stamp on things by taking the side out of Sydney to the Blue Mountains for training camp.

"It is a new era," prop Payne Haas, who played in every series for Fittler after 2019, said. "I'm not taking anything away from Freddy. It's just different.

"Madge is doing it his way. I'm really enjoying it, and being out in the Blue Mountains is good. It's been pretty relaxed. "We've connected with the old boys a lot, and I think that has been one of the main (differences)."

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If the Blues are to turn things around and deny Queensland of a third straight Origin series victory they will have to defy history. The team who won Game 1 has been victorious in 31 of the 42 State of Origin series, with the Blues only rebounding from 1-0 down three times in their history.

To make matters even worse NSW will have to win the next two matches away from home in Melbourne and Brisbane if they are to win the series. Only once in history has a team won the final two games away from home after going down 1-0, with that being the NSW team in 1994. And even if the Blues do draw level at 1-1 in Melbourne, they have lost their last six deciders at Suncorp Stadium.

But despite history being against them, Maguire is confident the Blues can turn things around. "I've been in this circumstance before, so I know exactly what we'll do," he said.

"I'll obviously talk to the players. If you have 13 players out there, the whole game is a different ball game. I'm really confident in where the players are taking what we're doing."

with AAP