Bradman Best in massive development as NSW hit by fresh injury in State of Origin camp

The Blues have been forced to bring a new player into their 20-man squad.

Bradman Best has been cleared to begin full training with the NSW State of Origin team, while Joseph Suaalii has been added to the official 20-man squad after Luke Keary suffered an injury at training. Best came into camp under an injury cloud and was sent for scans on his hamstring on Monday, which cleared him of serious injury.

Best didn't train in full on Wednesday or Thursday, instead doing some drills by himself away from the main group. But the Blues revealed on Friday that he'll be back to full training on Saturday and is expected to take his place in the Origin decider.

Joseph Suaalii and Bradman Best in NSW State of Origin camp.
Joseph Suaalii has been helping NSW in camp, where Bradman Best hasn't been able to train properly. Image: AAP/Dane Lillingstone

"Bradman Best is our only injury concern but he is coming along really well," NSW head of performance Frank Ponissi said. "We never intended for him to train on [Wednesday or Thursday]. He's just been working on the side and getting treatment. He's expected to train fully with the team on Saturday and we expect him to play on Wednesday night in Game 3."

Suaalii filled in for Best on Thursday as the Blues had an opposed session against St Marys' Ron Massey Cup side. At that stage he wasn't part of the official 20-man squad, but that changed on Friday when it came to light that Roosters playmaker Keary had suffered an injury.

Joseph Suaalii and Zac Lomax.
Joseph Suaalii (L) at a NSW Blues training session. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

According to the Daily Telegraph, the Blues applied to the NRL for an exemption to bring Suaalii into the squad, which was granted because Keary's injury occurred during camp. Suaalii wouldn't have been allowed to replace Best if the centre was ruled out because Best's injury was a pre-existing one.

Keary has reportedly been dealing with an issue in his pubic bone, but isn't expected to miss any NRL games for the Roosters. Matt Burton is still 18th man for the Origin decider. Burton can play in the halves as well as at centre, which is why the Blues didn't need to bring in another playmaker to fill Keary's spot.

Suaalii made his Origin debut in Game 1, but was sent off in just the eighth minute and suspended for four weeks. He has since missed four Roosters games, making him available for selection for Game 3 - but Maguire went with Best to replace the injured Latrell Mitchell instead.

Matt Burton, pictured here in State of Origin camp.
Matt Burton (L) would be the man to replace Bradman Best. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

Suaalii also trained with the NSW team in camp before Game 2 and has been keen to help out wherever he can. Under NRL rules, players cannot be brought in to feature in an Origin match from outside the 20-man squad unless an exemption is granted. The NRL allowed the Blues to replace Dylan Edwards with James Tedesco in Game 1 from outside the 20-man squad, but that was because Edwards was injured in camp.


NSW forward Martin predicted on Wednesday that Best would be good to go. “He said he’s fine. I asked him when he first came into camp how he was, and he said it was a precaution,” Martin said.

“I told him I had something similar in the first two camps, so I told him to keep his body right and do what he needs to do. He’ll be ready to go. I think it’s fine. As long as you’re getting the mental reps and making sure you’re clear in your role (you’ll be fine).

“Making sure your body is right is the most important thing, so I think he’ll be fine. He’ll handle it and he’ll jump in at the back end of the week, and that’s where he’ll get the reps.”

Best said on Monday: "The physios will monitor me and it'll be all good. Injuries are a part of the game, as footy players it comes with it and you sort of get your head around it. I'll make sure I get my body right and be all good to go."

with AAP