Why Wighton will start and Addo-Carr was dumped: Fittler
Jack Wighton has never disappointed at left centre for NSW and looks refreshed after a two-match suspension, which is why Brad Fittler gave him the nod to start in the centres ahead of rookie Stephen Crichton.
Crichton will come off the bench for the Blues after Fittler confirmed his starting 17 on a murky Monday in Coogee.
The risk of starting two debutant centres in Crichton and Kotoni Staggs weighed on Fittler’s mind, which made the Wighton decision even easier.
“[Wighton’s] had five games at left centre for us and they’ve all been good, and he’s been a part of our group for a long time,” Fittler told the Herald.
“Bringing new people into the group is always a positive and an enlightening thing to do, but you need to put them around people who have been there before.
“I think it would have been risky [with two new centres]. Jack had a couple of weeks off [through suspension] and he looks really fresh. His last two games have really helped me with the decision.
“Jack actually looks fast again. He’s always tough and willing. It’s hard to work out what position is his best, be it five-eighth, centre or fullback, but he’s just so wholehearted.
Jack Wighton will start at left centre for NSW.Credit:Getty
“Stephen will come off the bench. Him and Brian To’o have been playing on the right side for Penrith, but they have both played on the left as well. I’ve got a plan for Stephen.”
Fittler also confirmed Tariq Sims and Cameron Murray would be his starting back-rowers, with the coach more than comfortable showing loyalty towards the unwanted Dragon.
“Just watching him for St George Illawarra, Tariq has done a great job,” Fittler said.
“You need to keep loyalty but not [blind] loyalty. If you did that, everyone would still be playing Origin until they are 34.”
Crichton, Liam Martin, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Ryan Matterson will feature on the bench, with Nicho Hynes 18th man.
A big talking point was the axing of Josh Addo-Carr, but Fittler said it was more a case of Daniel Tupou playing his way back into the Blues.
“Josh has been down on form,” Fittler said.
“Daniel has played his way into the side. He was here two years ago and was one of our best players He was playing back in 2014 when NSW won the series. He knows what it takes to beat Queensland.
“What ‘Foxx’ brings to the team not just on the field but off it, it was a hard decision. It was a tough decision. But Daniel deserves it.”
The Bulldogs and Wests Tigers are at the wrong end of the ladder and failed to provide a single player to NSW. High-flying Penrith will have seven, including Api Koroisau who is part of the extended bench and free to play for the Panthers on Friday night against the Dogs.
Joseph Suaalii has been brought into the squad, with Fittler making sure he sounded out Roosters coach Trent Robinson and chairman Nick Politis about rolling out the sky-blue welcome mat for the 18-year-old.
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