Fittler defends bench picks in Blues loss

Pamela Whaley
·2-min read

NSW coach Brad Fittler defended his decision not to select Ryan Papenhuyzen for State of Origin III, despite admitting he would have been handy in hindsight.

The Blues coach was left to mull over his call to name four forwards on the bench after Wednesday night's series-deciding loss to Queensland at Suncorp Stadium.

Fittler said he couldn't have envisioned losing star fullback James Tedesco in the opening 20 minutes and was so confident in the team that won game two, he didn't dare change it.

And so, the 22-year-old Clive Churchill Medallist Papenhuyzen didn't get a game this series after missing the first two with a calf injury that he sustained in the premiership win.

"In hindsight, (he would have been helpful) but I thought Clint Gutherson was great at fullback and I thought Isaah Yeo was outstanding," Fittler said on Thursday.

"No one thinks their fullback is going to get injured and you don't really plan for your fullback to get injured.

"I don't see many fullbacks on the bench, ever really.

"To think like that after winning like we did in game two, it's a far stretch.

"And the players who fill those positions are possibly some of our better players."

Fittler's call not to name a bench utility was seen as a risk heading into the clash in the light of Queensland losing-eighth Cameron Munster in the first two minutes of the match in Sydney.

However, in sticking with Yeo, Junior Paulo, Dale Finucane and Nathan Brown off the interchange bench, Fittler's options were limited to replace Tedesco when he was knocked out.

It's the first series loss for Fittler and lessons were learned.

"Without a doubt," he said.

"I'm not sure yet but, over the next couple of days or weeks, we'll sit down with staff and go over the game and do what we've got to do.

"In general I think the players were prepared well and the way they started the game, they had plenty of spirit, plenty of fight.

"The two games we lost we ended up on their try line trying to win the game.

"Execution at times let us down, but they were pretty brave."