Former New South Wales coach Laurie Daley has taken aim at Brad Fittler's critics after the Blues lost Game I in Adelaide last week. Fittler has come under fire since Game I after the Blues lost the lead in Adelaide when the Maroons scored twice with 12 men on the field take a 1-0 series lead back to Suncorp.
Fittler is facing his second straight series loss, and his third in four years, if he isn't able to win in enemy territory. But the former Blues great has come under fire for his selections and rotations for a second straight year.
One of the two biggest concerns was his use of Nicho Hynes off the bench. The reigning Dally M winner wasn't introduced into the game until the final moments, where he played at centre.
There were also plenty of calls for Hynes to start the match at five-eighth. Regardless, there have been calls for changes to the Blues team with captain James Tedesco even coming under fire for a nightmare performance.
And Daley, who coached the Blues to five Origin wins, said the criticism needs to wait till after the series so we can get behind the state. “I just don’t like seeing it, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I would prefer for people to have that opinion at the end of a series, not one game in,” Daley said on the Big Sports Breakfast.
“I don’t think it is fair on anyone and I have been there myself and it is a burden. It is just something that you don’t have to put up with, but we know how the news cycle works. But for me, support him and see how we go at the end of the series.”
However, this opinion isn't shared by many. Reporter Phil Rothfield knocked back the suggestion and said Fittler's criticism comes from a number of poor performances from the men in Sky Blue.
“I think with Freddy you can only look at his track record over the last three years and that’s the only (argument),” Rothfield added. “It’s not the media creating this debate, it is the fact that NSW have lost two of the last three very winnable series with, in my opinion, a better football side than what Queensland put on the park for each game."
Despite the criticism for Fittler and Tedesco, Rothfield said talks around replacing the captain were wide off the mark. Tedesco has arguably been the Blues' best player in recent years and returned fire to his critics on the weekend after a strong performance against the Bulldogs.
Nathan Cleary injured in Blues Origin drama
Fittler will now have a big decision on who will replace Nathan Cleary for Game II after the Penrith halfback suffered a hamstring tear on the weekend. Cleary limped out of the game against the Dragons and on Monday, it was confirmed he would miss around six weeks with the hamstring injury.
Hynes could slot straight into No.7 to replace Cleary, but this then opens up the debate who will partner him in the halves. Incumbent Jarome Luai plays with Cleary at club level, but now loses the Panthers' partnership.
Cody Walker is the form attacking five-eighth in the NRL and could come in to partner Hynes. This could see a combination with Latrell Mitchell, who is set to return, and Damien Cook if he is brought into No.9 or used off the bench.
The other name being tossed around is Adam Reynolds. The former Rabbitohs halfback has helped lead the Broncos in 2023 and would not be over-awed playing at Suncorp. His partnership with Walker and Mitchell could also be seen as valuable with Fittler known for favouring combinations.
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