Fittler’s plan to protect ‘nugget’ Blues winger

NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler has revealed he has strategies in place to negate the aerial weakness that comes with having Brian To’o in his line-up but says the pint-sized winger’s impressive game far outweighs any concerns over his height.

Off the back of a stellar opening half to the season, To’o pipped incumbent NSW winger Daniel Tupou to the Blues jersey in a big nod of recognition by Fittler.

To’o has played a pivotal role in the Panthers’ unbeaten start to the season, crossing for six tries, racking up an average of 245 running metres per game and racking up a mammoth 73 tackle breaks.

Those numbers were almost impossible to ignore for Fittler, but despite the metrics many will still hold concerns for To’o under the high ball.

At 182cm, To’o doesn’t exactly fit the winger’s mould of the sky-high scorer, but it’s the facets his unique build and low-centre of gravity bring to the position that should instead have Queensland worried.

“He’s a nugget. My god, he’s like a little rock. Wow, no wonder he’s so hard to tackle,” Fittler told Wide World of Sports’ Freddy and The Eighth.

“I stand next to the players and ask, ‘What’s he like to play with?’ and they all go, ‘He’s just so hard to tackle’. Good luck Queensland.

“Oh. yeah [height could have worked against him], but he gets off the ground.

“I think like all wingers at some stage, dealing with high balls and errors and things like that. Them more than anyone are under pressure constantly, because they’re not only catching passes to score tries but they’re bringing the ball out of trouble, have to be able to catch kicks, and they’ve got blokes that are 6 foot 6 (198cm) and jumping over the top of them.

“But we’ve got a strategy around that, he brings a lot on other parts of his game and he’s doing a lot of that well.”

Eighth Immortal Andrew Johns, who is in camp with the Blues, said critics needed to stop focusing on what players couldn’t do and instead look to their strengths, pointing to the case of Preston Campbell, one of the smallest players ever to win the Dally M Medal.

“People focus too much on what they can’t do,” Johns told Freddy and The Eighth.

“Preston Campbell, how many times you reckon he got told he was too small? Ends up winning a Dally M, one of the great players.”

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