NSW Blues' Prior fourth oldest debutant

Matt Encarnacion
1 / 2

SOO BLUES TRAINING

Brad Fittler has given Matt Prior the nod over Ryan James to fill the final spot in NSW's 17

NSW bolter Matt Prior will become the fourth oldest player to make his State of Origin debut for the Blues after being handed the vacant front-row spot for State of Origin II.

Blues coach Brad Fittler had the choice between Prior and Ryan James, and admitted the Cronulla prop won out because of his similarity to the injured Reagan Campbell-Gillard.

Fittler confirmed Prior will be in the run-on side on Sunday.

"I was watching training and I've been using advice and trying to take in as much information as possible," Fittler said on Tuesday evening.

"But at the end of the day, it come down to the fact that Matty Prior plays a lot like Reagan Campbell-Gillard. That benefited him this time.

"I'm really excited for a 31-year-old bloke, picked to play his first game. He won't let anyone down."

At 31 years and 23 days, Prior follows in the footsteps of Tony Butterfield, Max Krilich and Hazem El Masri to make their Origin debuts in their early 30s.

Despite being over 10 years into his NRL career, Prior never gave up on his Origin dream.

"Especially over the last few years, I've put it on my goal list and it's something I've been working towards for three-to-four years," he said.

"I tried to tick every box that I can and doing all the extras and praying maybe one day I'll get a chance and if I ever got the chance, hopefully I'd be ready for it."

While Fittler was excited to give Prior his first shot at Queensland, he was forced to have yet another tough conversation with James after also dramatically omitting the Gold Coast captain for game one.

James was initially told to board a plane from Gold Coast to Sydney last month before he was overtaken at the last minute by Canterbury prop David Klemmer.

"We've had some uncomfortable conversations already with Ryan," Fittler said.

"I've always been a fan, the way he gets around and he's a front-rower playing 80 minutes week-in, week-out. His last couple of games have been his best couple since his name's been brought up with Origin.

"So you've got to say he's handling the pressure well and if he got his opportunity, he wouldn't have been overwhelmed either."

The Blues' preparations were disrupted by Sydney's torrential rain on Tuesday morning, with officials forced to move training from Coogee Oval to Moore Park.

However all 20 players took part in the 90-minute slog, with James Maloney (sciatic nerve) and Latrell Mitchell (neck) training in yellow bibs to indicate no-contact.

OLDEST NSW STATE OF ORIGIN DEBUTANTS

Tony Butterfield - 32 and 135 days

Max Krilich - 31 and 219 days

Hazem El Masri - 31 and 93 days

Matt Prior - 31 and 28 days

John Ferguson - 30 and 317 days

Tom Raudonikis - 30 and 86 days

Nathan Merritt - 30 and 31 days.