NSW Origin advisor Greg Alexander has shut down speculation around captain James Tedesco's place in the side, after suggesting calls to drop the fullback after a horror showing in Game I are "ridiculous". Tedesco endured a horror show in the 26-18 loss to Queensland in the State of Origin opener in Adelaide, with the Roosters superstar having at least some fault in three of the Maroons tries.
Selwyn Cobbo shrugged off Tedesco with ease after a lacklustre tackle to stop a try, while Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow capitalised on a horrendous slip from the Blues No.1 to coast in for an easy try in the second half. By far the most embarrassing moment for Tedesco came when he was out-jumped by Roosters teammate and Maroons prop Lindsay Collins late in the game, before Cameron Munster sealed victory with a try.
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Tedesco has been a brilliant Blues captain and one of the game's greats, but the omnipresent fullback appears to have lost a yard of pace and his cutting edge this year for the Roosters, with that indifferent form carrying over to the Origin. Even in attack, he squandered several good opportunities after opting not to pass the footy, most notably cutting back inside when he had Josh Addo-Carr on the outside, metres out from the Maroons tryline.
With the likes of Penrith's Dylan Edwards - who leads the NRL for run metres - as well as South Sydney fullback Latrell Mitchell and Manly's Tom Trbojevic offering the Blues quality alternatives, the pressure is building on Tedesco. However, Alexander has pointed to the Australia and NSW captain's exemplary record in the representative arena, and says calls to potentially axe him after one poor performance for the Blues are crazy.
“They’re quick to get to this time of Teddy’s career, aren’t they?” Alexander said on NRL 360. “So what, no thought of what has happened in the past? They’ve just jumped to a game where people think that Teddy wasn’t 9 out of 10 and all of a sudden they want Teddy’s head. I think it’s ridiculous.”
Blues teammate Nathan Cleary was also quick to defend his skipper, saying: “I’m not sure why [people think he should be dropped]. He’s been the best player for New South Wales for a number of years now. I think people are pretty quick to judge and jump to conclusions but he’s been an absolute beast for a long time now.”
James Tedesco at centre of fierce Origin debate
The subject was the focal point of a tense debate on Thursday night's NRL 360 program, with veteran league reporter Phil ‘Buzz’ Rothfield insisting Tedesco “gets a gold pass” to at least see out the rest of this series. “It is ridiculous,” Rothfield said.
“There’s an old rule in sports journalism that you never, ever knock a champion. We were talking about James Tedesco when he took Australia to the World Cup as the best player in rugby league, him and Munster and maybe Joey Manu. On what he’s achieved in rugby league and that New South Wales jersey, he gets a gold pass in my view on reputation for the remainder of the series.”
However, a fired up James Hooper suggested NSW coach Brad Fittler - whose own position is under fire at the Blues - may have to make some tough calls like Maroons counterpart Billy Slated did by axing QLD mainstay Dane Gagai and superstar fullback Kalyn Ponga. “It is similar. Billy was prepared to roll the dice and take a risk, Freddy tried to roll the dice. Billy ended up with a royal flush and Freddy’s ended up with a pair of twos," Hooper said.
“Teddy’s played 20 State of Origin matches, he’s won multiple man of the match awards, he’s won three Brad Fittler medals. But if you go through there’s three or four incidents out of last night.
“First up he was held up in the opening half, could have passed to Addo-Carr. Second up, poor attempt for Selwyn Cobbo’s second try. Third he slips over when Hamiso is about to score the try that sends Queensland to the front and then the play of the day was when he got out-jumped by Lindsay Collins.”
A fired up Rothfield rounded on Hooper, asking: “So you want to sack him, do you? You deadset want to sack him?.” While Hooper refused to go as far as confirming he wanted Tedesco out, he implied that no one's position in the side should be guaranteed, regardless of reputation.
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