Origin holds no fear for Panther Crichton

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Stephen Crichton has declared he is ready to play State of Origin as he aims to go from NSW ballboy to left centre for next month's series opener.

Crichton remains the outsider for the vacant Blues No.3 jersey, with Kotoni Staggs the man tipped to fill Latrell Mitchell's spot on June 8.

NSW coach Brad Fittler indicated last week he believed Crichton's chance would come in a few years, with the 21-year-old in just his third full NRL season.

But Penrith players, including Origin stars Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai and Brian To'o, insist Crichton is ready for the big stage now.

Fittler was an interested onlooker at Penrith training on Tuesday, there to film a shoot for Channel Nine while keeping a close watch on the up to six Panthers who could feature in his side next month.

He brought Crichton into his extended squad in 2020, with the flyer having since played in a second grand final and pulled off the clutch play to win last year's premiership

And with that big-game experience in mind, Crichton is certain he would be ready to step up for NSW.

"I have developed and helped myself be ready come game time," Crichton said.

"I think I am ready to play, but I'll see what lies ahead.

"Being in that camp taught me little things I still do today. Extra stretching and ice baths I learned off the older boys."

It was in that 2020 NSW camp that Crichton acted as a ballboy due to COVID-19 restrictions.

"It was mad," Crichton said.

"Even as the ballboy and we were getting sprayed by the Queensland fans. I thought imagine if we were playing, it would be worse.

"It was a massive occasion leading up to it. Heaps of nerves and I didn't even play."

Panthers players could have been forgiven for thinking Origin had come a month early this week.

With Fittler at training, Cleary, Luai, To'o, Isaah Yeo and Liam Martin are preparing to face four of Queensland's likely squad in a top-of-the-table clash with Melbourne at a packed-out Suncorp Stadium.

"It's a bit similar (to Origin)," To'o said.

"The intensity level rises especially with both teams having our fair share of matches together. "

But it also represents a massive chance for Crichton.

With To'o alongside him, the pair will need to shut down Justin Olam with the Storm star equal with Crichton for the most tries of all centres this year with six.

"I've done a lot of work on him from the first time I played him until now," Crichton said.

"I have done my homework on him. He is one of the best defensive centres and goes hard with his carries.

"I will back myself that I can cover him. It's about backing my reads, our systems and defensive principles."

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