Fittler considering double hooking option for NSW


NSW coach Brad Fittler looks likely to go back to the future when picking his hooker - or hookers - for State of Origin I.

Fittler is seriously considering selecting two hookers for June's series opener against Queensland in Melbourne.

Cameron McInnes, Api Koroisau and Damien Cook have emerged as the stand-out hookers of the NRL in recent weeks and one could come off the bench, as Fittler tries to find a way to finally nullify Queensland captain Cameron Smith in the No.9 jersey.

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"I've always thought that was a tactic they haven't looked deeply enough into in the past. But there is a big possibility we will go in with two hookers," Fittler said.

Andrew Johns floated the idea last week, pointing to NSW's glory days when Danny Buderus started at hooker and Craig Wing came off the bench.

McInnes, Koroisau and Cook. Image: Getty

Not since the Super League-stricken series of 1997 have the Blues gone with a specialist hooker on the bench, when Parramatta dummy-half Aaron Raper was picked for Game II.

Since then selectors have preferred a utility option, with Wing, Dean Young and Craig Gower among those to have come off the interchange and into dummy-half despite having played the majority of their club career elsewhere.

Fittler has already suggested club combinations could be beneficial, poignant given Koroisau's combination with the Trbojevic brothers at Manly and St George Illawarra's in-form forward pack alonsgide McInnes.

But he indicated that wouldn't necessarily count against Cook at South Sydney.

"If they have to come in and they're the only person from the club then that would have to be it," he said.

"I think McInnes is playing with a few St George Illawarra forwards at the moment who are playing really good - it could be beneficial to him."

How Fittler handles his bench will be key.

The prevalence of concussion checks mean there has been a shift in the NRL to do away with a second hooker, and instead play a utility.

Blues assistant Buderus nominated Tyrone Peachey as an option on Tuesday, after the Penrith said he felt he could figure in almost any position for the Blues.

But Fittler also has the advantage of Wade Graham in his 17 - if he is fit - who has played anywhere from the halves to lock and could potentially figure at centre in the case of an injury.

Graham isn't due back from a hamstring injury until as late as a fortnight before the team is named, but Fittler indicated he'd be more willing to have him slot straight into the side than uncapped halfback Nathan Cleary - who is also due back round 11.

"Some players have more State of Origin experience most probably get a bigger leeway there. Rookies you probably want playing up to Origin or be as fit as they possibly can," Fittler said.

The chances of Cook, Koroisau and McInnes have also been boosted by an injury to incumbent NSW rake Nathan Peats.

The Gold Coast are set to be without Peats for up to six weeks after he suffered fractured ribs in Sunday's loss to Penrith.

He was already struggling to hold onto his place with McInnes, Koroisau and Cook putting forward strong cases.

In a worst-case scenario, he won't be back before Fittler selects his side for the June 6 series opener.