NSW forward Jordan McLean has been robbed of his State of Origin debut after suffering a hamstring injury at training on Thursday.
McLean has been ruled out of the series decider in Brisbane, with Newcastle prop Jacob Saifiti reportedly set to take his place and debut instead.
McLean had been close to NSW selection in 2017 but only earned a recall to Brad Fittler's extended squad for Origin II.
The 30-year-old, who has won eight caps for Australia but never played Origin, was then picked to replace the injured Payne Haas for Game III.
BREAKING: Jordan McLean OUT of Origin. Hamstring injury. @telegraph_sport
— David Riccio (@DaveRic1) July 7, 2022
Jordan McLean ruled out of Origin 3 after suffering a hamstring injury at training today. Even a minor hamstring strain would require more than a week to allow a safe return to play (typically high reinjury rate). Devastating for him to miss out on his NSW debut
— NRL PHYSIO (@nrlphysio) July 7, 2022
At age 30, McLean would have become the sixth oldest debutant for NSW in State of Origin history.
The Cowboys prop, whose career has been blighted by several serious injuries, said he knew as soon as he tested the injury at Thursday's training session he was out.
"My career has been full of ups and downs and I've kind of gotten used to it but I thought I might be at a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel getting this opportunity, but it wasn't to be," McLean said through tears.
"I still haven't talked to the family yet so that's going to be the hardest thing, telling them I won't be playing this week."
The Blues are yet to officially confirm a replacement for McLean, but Saifiti, who trained with the Blues on Wednesday before returning to the Knights, is set to make an immediate return to the camp.
Parramatta's Reagan Campbell-Gillard, who played in Game I before being dropped, is another option to return.
Feel sorry for Jordan McLean. In career best form and deserved his long awaited origin call up. Now out with a hamstring injury. Absolutely shocking luck. @NRLonNine
— Peter Psaltis (@peterp79) July 7, 2022
Absolutely gutted for Jordan McLean. One of the great human beings. #Origin
— Elliott Lovejoy (@ElliottLovejoy) July 7, 2022
Meanwhile, NSW centre Matt Burton has addressed concerns around his fitness after he was an observer at training on Wednesday.
Burton could be seen watching on from the fringes as the Blues were put through their paces in horrendous weather in camp in Kingscliff.
Speaking to NRL.com, Burton said there are no concerns about his fitness and the move was mainly due to the wet weather.
Matt Burton (right) is taking no part in @NSWBlues first main training session at Kingscliff. Calf niggle. Deemed precautionary and no concern for game, according to staff. @telegraph_sport pic.twitter.com/C6VyX9020f
— David Riccio (@DaveRic1) July 6, 2022
“It is obviously a bit slippery out there so we didn’t think it was worth the risk today, but I will be sweet to go tomorrow,” the Bulldogs star said.
“It is a long week so I didn’t want to take any risks.”
Jack Wighton, who will serve as 18th man in the series decider in Brisbane, trained at left centre in place of Burton.
Burton starred for NSW in Game II in his Origin debut, scoring a try and setting up another.
Chad Townsend comes in for Nicho Hynes
One day after being called into NSW's extended squad, playmaker Chad Townsend has been laid low by a bout of gastroenteritis.
Townsend joined the Blues' camp in Kingscliff on Wednesday after Nicho Hynes tested positive to Covid-19.
Hynes, who was with the squad in Sydney earlier this week after being named as a reserve by coach Brad Fittler, didn't travel to their northern NSW camp.
The Cronulla half instead stayed in Sydney to prepare for the NRL match between the Sharks and Melbourne.
He returned a positive RAT prior to the Sharks' training on Wednesday and a subsequent PCR test has also come back positive, meaning Hynes will miss Thursday's game as well as next week's Origin III.
Townsend was subsequently added to the squad, where it is assumed he'll take on the role of 19th man, and is unlikely to play unless injury or illness forces Fittler into a reshuffle.
But the 31-year-old was a notable absentee from Thursday's training session at the Cudgen Leagues Club.
The North Queensland captain is instead spending his first full day at camp in his hotel room as he deals with a bout of gastro club officials have described as "mild".
Townsend has tested negative for Covid-19 and is expected to link up with the Blues squad after he's recovered.
The Blues will have to defy history in order to beat the Maroons on enemy territory in next Wednesday's decider.
NSW have won just 20 of the 58 Origins played at Suncorp Stadium, and those figures become even grimmer when talking about Game III deciders.
Of the 12 deciders played in Brisbane, the Blues have only won two - in 1994 and 2005.
Fittler has invited members of both of those victorious teams to join his squad in their camp this week to provide inspiration and know-how to his players.
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