Injury scare iced for recalled NSW ace

NRL Rd 17 -  Knights v Eels
Bradman Best is back in the NSW team. Picture: Scott Gardiner/Getty Images

Michael Maguire says it was an “easy choice” to bring in Bradman Best for the State of Origin decider as a replacement for Latrell Mitchell, with the Knights centre cleared of a hamstring injury after he was sent for precautionary scans.

Matt Burton, picked as 18th man, is on standby for Best who declared “it’ll be all good” after arriving in camp with with Maguire confident his side can handle the loss of Mitchell who tormented the Maroons in game two.

Best has been in terrific form for the Knights since returning from injury last month, and he downplayed fears he could be ruled out of the decider after feeling hamstring tightness following the win in Canberra.

Blue Media Session
Bradman Best is in no doubt for Origin III after scans cleared him of a hamstring injury. Picture: Rohan Kelly

“I just pulled up a bit tight from yesterday’s game. I flagged it with our physios and they obviously reported it to the Blues physios here. We’re all good,” he said.

“Just at the end of the game it got tight, it was probably because of the travel and the coldness, I reckon. 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.

“I’ve just got to come in and play my part for the team, I don’t have to be Trell, I’ve just got to be me. Obviously Trell’s a great player but unfortunately he’s out. I’ve got a job to do now.”

Mitchell would have been one of the first players picked for next week’s clash in Brisbane, but the South Sydney superstar may not play again this year after he suffered a serious foot injury in Thursday’s win over the Eels.

It’s a huge loss for NSW who will miss his aggression on the left, but it opens the door for Best to repeat what he did 12 months ago when he scored a double on debut for the Blues to help them avoid a series sweep.

Best would have been in contention for game one but picked up a hamstring injury, with the Knights star scoring three tries since returning. He pulled up sore after Sunday’s win over Canberra and was sent for scans as a precaution with officials confident the injury is not serious.

Bradman Best has been sent for scans on his hamstring. Picture: NRL Photos
Bradman Best has been sent for scans on his hamstring. Picture: NRL Photos

Maguire though lauded the Newcastle powerhouse who has “been on fire for the last sort of month.

“So it’s nice to bring him in and replace the big fella in Latrell,” he said.

“(One of the things that I like) is that he’s actually been there before and was probably one of the best players in game three last year, so he’s shown that he can play at that level.

“I had a lot of thoughts about him before we started this series, but he was out injured. It’s nice to see him running around and playing really well.

“Bradman in the last month has really shown what he’s capable of doing. It was an easy pick for me once we got there.”

Maguire had several options for the decider with Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii available after serving his ban for a high shot in the series opener which saw him sent off on debut, while Matt Burton has been in outstanding form for the Bulldogs.

But the most intriguing option was bringing back Tom Trbojevic who has dominated in the Origin arena in the past but was out for more than two months before he returned out of position at left centre for Manly on Saturday night.

“When you’ve been out for quite some time, the game shifts week in, week out,” the NSW coach said.

“He’s also been playing a different position, so at fullback you train a different way and then you get thrown in at centre where you have to make a lot more tackles on an edge and have to move backwards and forwards.

“The best thing for Tommy is that it’s nice to see him out there playing (for Manly).”

The only other change was an unforced one, although Mitch Barnett’s form was impossible to ignore after he ran for 208m, made 51 tackles and set up a try for the Warriors on Saturday afternoon.

He comes in for Haumole Olakau’atu who hasn’t had the chance to shine off the bench in either game this series.

“Mitch has been playing really well, and I feel with Mitch that he can probably play a bit more in the middle for us,” Maguire said.

“Haumole and Mitch are great players, but Mitch has definitely earned his opportunity and that’ll allow Liam Martin to stay on the edge.”