New South Wales fans have been once again left baffled at Brad Fittler's bench rotation with Eels star Clint Gutherson spending 76 minutes on the sideline. The Blues were able to stop the first clean sweep in a series in 13 years having defeated the Maroons 24-10 in Sydney.
Cody Walker was dubbed the "the best player on the field", by Cameron Smith, and was rewarded with the player-of-the-match award. It was too late for the Blues who had been out-fought in Game I and outplayed in Game II.
Fittler got his team selection right in Game III with Damien Cook, Cody Walker, Liam Martin and Cameron Murray all in the starting side and delivered the team extra energy from the get-go. However, Fittler still baffled fans when he opted to leave Gutherson on the bench for all but three minutes of the game.
It isn't the first time Fittler has made a bizarre decision with his bench this series. Nicho Hynes was used at centre for the final 10 minutes of Game I, but was dropped afterwards with the halfback not getting a chance to prove himself.
In Game II, Fittler selected Cook as the back-up No.9. Cook was needed at centre because of an injury, which saw the Blues' game plan go out the window. Furthermore, Stefano Utoikamanu was used for 12 minutes in his debut off the bench.
Before Game III, Fittler compensated and selected Gutherson as the utility alongside No.9 back-up Reece Robson. This means the Blues only carried two forwards into Game III.
And the Blues dominated with the faster play the ball a huge factor in the victory. Despite this, fans were still left divided over the use of Gutherson.
Many felt a player, such as Gutherson, is a waste sitting on the bench and coming on in the 76th minute for Josh Addo-Carr in the Origin arena. The Eels fullback received a warm welcome rom the crowd and touched the ball twice in his short time on the field.
— CelticMindset (@CelticMindset) July 12, 2023
Putting Gutherson on for 3 minutes is almost insulting 💀 #StateofOrigin
— jade (@jadeyk01) July 12, 2023
Parramatta Eels fans have to be spewing right now
Clint Gutherson unavailable for the Round 19 flogging by the NZ Warriors
Only to sit on the bench for NSW, until the 77th minute, with the game won#Origin #NRL
— Phil (@PhilUnfiltered) July 12, 2023
A WHOLE 2 MINUTES AND A HALF FOR CLINT GUTHERSON WOW MASTERCLASS COACHING
— V (@TicsVitsJacThic) July 12, 2023
35 minutes to go and we still haven't seen Robson or Gutherson. Fred doesn't know how to select or function a bench, does he? #StateofOrigin
— Nick HH (@NickHH07) July 12, 2023
Gutherson and Utoikamanu. 17 minutes of brilliance.
Anyone else play less than 15 (not due to injury).
— Karate Warrior II (@me_dc) July 12, 2023
Brad Fittler praise Cody Walker's influence
Fittler would have been very unlikely to keep his position as Blues coach if the Maroons achieved the first series clean sweep in 13 years. However, fans will now wait to see if Fittler gets another chance at redemption next year.
Questions will remain over a number of positions in the Blues team. James Tedesco's reign as captain and fullback will be looked at after another series loss and around the halves roles could see a change. Regardless, Fittler was full of praise for Rabbitohs star Walker for his contribution in Game III. "Cody made a massive difference and he came up with some really nice passes," Fittler said.
"We had a plan and stuck to it and other than a try at the start we got urgent in the second half. It shows how hard it is to win three games."
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