Brad Fittler makes shock call on NSW starting hooker for Origin II

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·Sports Editor
·3-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Api Koriosau and Damien Cook, pictured here in action for NSW.
Api Koriosau will start at hooker for NSW in place of Damien Cook. Image: Getty

Brad Fittler has revealed his 17 for State of Origin II, with Api Koriosau a shock starter at hooker in place of Damien Cook.

Panthers hooker Koriosau was initially thought to be in line for a spot on the bench, but the official team sheet released on Monday revealed he will start at No.9.

'CRUEL': Why Souths' decision to hook Lachlan Ilias was unnecessary

'TOTALLY BROKEN': Adam Reynolds blow exposes Broncos gamble

Cook, who has been a mainstay in the NSW No.9 jersey since Fittler's tenure began in 2018, will come off the bench.

Fittler said Koroisau's inclusion didn't mean the coaching staff had lost faith in Rabbitohs star Cook amidst a lukewarm stretch of form.

"That'll be a tactical change, going in with two hookers," Fittler said.

"Between (Cook) and (South Sydney teammate) Cam Murray, we've got a lot of confidence in them. They've been part of this group for a while now."

Koroisau's inclusion in the run-on side means the Blues will have seven Penrith players in the starting 13, joining Nathan Cleary, Jerome Luai, Brain To'o, Stephen Crichton, Isaah Yeo and Liam Martin.

Matt Burton has since moved to the Bulldogs, but was the Dally M centre of the year at the Panthers in 2021.

Fittler also revealed that Burton and Siosifa Talakai will make their debuts, while Jake Trbojevic will start in the front row.

Burton will start at centre despite playing five-eighth for Canterbury, while Talakai has won a spot on the bench.

Brad Fittler makes mass changes for Origin II

Ryan Matterson, Kotoni Staggs, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Tariq Sims have all been dropped from the side that lost 16-10 to Queensland in the series opener, while Jack Wighton is the only forced change due to Covid-19.

Jacob Saifiti and Tyson Frizell, who were in the wider NSW squad for Game I, have also been axed.

Fittler said the only option after a defeat was to change tactics, especially when the three-match series is on the line.

"When you get beaten, you need to reassess," he said.

"We have no safety net at the moment.

"We went into the first game thinking a certain way about how the game would go and what we could do but it didn't happen."

Brad Fittler, pictured here during a NSW Blues training session.
Brad Fittler looks on during a NSW Blues training session. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Fittler has repeatedly stressed the importance of versatility to the Blues' set-up and said the inclusion of Talakai and Roosters forward Angus Crichton on the bench would help cover all bases.

"(Talakai) started the season in the middle, played on an edge and also has played centre," Fittler said.

"He was unlucky not to make the first game. He's someone we've been watching and we've been very excited watching.

"(Angus Crichton) is playing really powerfully at the moment. There are different ways he can play, in the middle or on an edge, but I'm really happy with the way he's going."

NSW TEAM FOR ORIGIN II

James Tedesco (c), Brian To'o, Matt Burton, Stephen Crichton, Daniel Tupou, Jarome Luai, Nathan Cleary, Payne Haas, Apisai Koroisau, Jake Trbojevic, Cameron Murray, Liam Martin, Isaah Yeo.

Interchange: Damien Cook, Angus Crichton, Junior Paulo, Siosifa Talakai.

Reserves: Nicho Hynes, Joseph Suaalii, Jordan McLean, Clint Gutherson, Victor Radley.

with AAP

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting