Papenhuyzen set for NSW Origin bench role

·2-min read

Caught short in last year's series decider, NSW State of Origin coach Brad Fittler sees Storm star Ryan Papenhuyzen as his ideal bench man for the opening clash at the MCG.

The highly rated Blues were upset by Queensland's "worst team ever" in the 2020 series, with NSW paying the price for going into the third match without a utility back among the reserves.

Fullback James Tedesco suffered a head knock midway through the first half, and five-eighth Cody Walker was another casualty, leaving the NSW attack in disarray and the Maroons clinching the series with a 20-14 victory.

Speaking on Wednesday at the State of Origin series launch in Melbourne, Fittler ruled out selecting both incumbent Walker and Penrith playmaker Jarome Luai in the line-up for the June 9 opener and said he needed a player with more versatility on the bench.

He said Walker and also Canberra five-eighth Jack Wighton offered the Blues valuable experience ahead of rookie Luai.

"We went into the last game without a back and that hurt us," Fittler said.

"Whether it's a half or an outside back; someone who can play in all of those positions would be nice."

He said that Papenhuyzen, who was a utility for Melbourne before settling in as fullback, had proven he could fill that role and Storm coach Craig Bellamy had provided a blueprint in how best to use the speedster.

"I think Ryan's shown over the last couple of years, he's able to play a few different positions," Fittler said.

"I think that's probably the key to Ryan coming into the representative teams, just the fact that he did so well playing other positions.

"He's not the biggest guy but ... if it's the right time he's almost impossible to stop so that comes down to my responsibility.

"The good thing is that Craig (Bellamy) has shown in the past how to do that and how it can work."

NSW are spoilt for choice with fullback selection, although their captain Tedesco is a certain starter.

Last year Fittler fashioned Parramatta custodian Clint Gutherson into a centre but backed away from that idea.

He said that Tom Trbojevic, finally over serious hamstring issues, could line up at centre where he has served the Blues in the past.

"We've done that - we did that last year and it didn't work so well cause we got beat," Fittler said.

"Tom has played centre and wing for us - he's one of those players, come the end of May we've just got to hope he's fit and ready to go.

"It's a matter of getting it all right; not getting too many of the stars and not having enough workers around them.

"That's the art of State of Origin, getting that balance right."