Vaughan path clear for Origin breakthrough

Paul Vaughan's NSW State of Origin stocks continue to rise but Blues coach Brad Fittler has ruled out selecting controversial Brisbane forward Matt Lodge.

Fittler's previously long list of forward options have been reduced in the past week.

Prop Andrew Fifita has ruled himself out of Blues contention in favour of representing Tonga, while Kangaroos front-rower Jordan McLean has been robbed of a debut after being sidelined for three months following foot surgery.

Fittler must at least add one member to last year's middle, which included Aaron Woods, David Klemmer, Tyson Frizell and Jake Trbojevic in all three games.

Vaughan, meanwhile, is holding strong at the table-topping St George Illawarra.

Considered unlucky to miss selection last year, Vaughan was told by then NSW coach Laurie Daley he needed to be consistent for longer.

Few could argue he hasn't done that.

In his first year after being dropped to reserve grade at Canberra in 2016, the 26-year-old ended 2017 as the Dragons' best forward.

He finished with 10 linebreaks and has backed that up in 2018 to help set the tone for the Dragons' exciting attacking model.

Crucially, his defensive workload for minutes played has increased significantly since arriving at the Dragons, while still tackling at 94 per cent efficiency.

Vaughan has been crucial to the Dragons' success. Pic: Getty

"It's something I've always got to work on and have had to since I got into first grade," Vaughan told AAP.

"Attack I can definitely still work on but to get to where I was playing last year it's just about fitness and in defence.

"I've definitely grown legs since coming to the Saints."

Fittler has never previously worked with Vaughan and only met him for the first time in March but he likes what he sees.

"He's big and fast," Fittler said.

"With St George Illawarra playing well and a few Sydney teams that's made me feel a lot more confident about a lot of our positions."

Fittler said he wouldn't be tempted into selecting 22-year-old Lodge, who was this year backed by Brisbane captain Darius Boyd to play Origin despite having fewer than 20 NRL games to his name.

"I don't think I'd consider him," Fittler said.

"His form has been really good but it's his first year back in three years and I don't think it would be fair to him.

"I think we'll let him concentrate on playing for Brisbane and getting his life back into some sort of normality."


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