Fittler nails selections in Origin rebound

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He's an offbeat character, but Brad Fittler learns his lessons.

The NSW coach was bagged mercilessly for losing an unloseable State of Origin series in 2020, with critics pointing to his team selections.

Many thought his quirks had warped, that his unorthodox ideas had simply gone too far.

Injury tied his hands in many ways, but five-eighth Jack Wighton was playing in the centres, as was fullback Clint Gutherson, and Fittler failed to pick a utility on the bench for the fateful decider.

This year, he unapologetically corrected those mistakes by creating one of the most powerful backlines in NSW Origin history.

By axing Cody Walker and Daniel Tupou - a creative genius and one of the most consistent players in the NRL - he strengthened the power of Penrith's attacking magic in the side, adding in Jarome Luai and Brian To'o.

Liam Martin, albeit a late call in for an injured Tyson Frizell on selection night for game one, made it five Panthers stars in the side, all unbeaten in NRL going into Origin I.

That cohesion and confidence was infectious, and Fittler's gutsy call to pick three debutants in Luai, To'o and Martin made all the difference in attitude.

"This team, there were seven players different to the last team and a lot of that was due to injury," Fittler said after Sunday night's 26-0 victory.

"I was very confident with this team.

"Every time you lose you go away and reassess."

But what hammered home Fittler's selection victory was the absence of ego in recalling Latrell Mitchell.

The South Sydney fullback, then playing centre for Sydney Roosters, was unceremoniously dumped by Fittler after game one of 2019 while he was distracted and not up for the Origin arena.

Last year a hamstring injury prevented his chance for redemption.

Still, lesser coaches would let their pride get in the way of recalling a risen superstar.

Not Fittler.

In making the courageous call to welcome Mitchell back with faith into the Origin side this year, Fittler awakened a Blues beast.

Centres Tom Trbojevic and Mitchell were the most dominant players on the field across the first two games, scoring seven tries between them.

They slotted into a back five who have scored 11 of 12 NSW tries this series, with Josh Addo-Carr and To'o also touching down.

Amazingly, skipper James Tedesco is yet to score, but has set up two try assists.

It's hard to believe they could get better, but Blues legend Andrew Johns described it best - frightening.

"The strike of this NSW team, it's frightening," he said on Nine.

"The back five for NSW, Tedesco, To'o, Trbojevic, Latrell, Addo-Carr ... in the history of NSW, this has the most strike of any back five."

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