Tedesco’s cruel injury blow behind Fittler’s plan

NSW coach Brad Fittler has revealed the devastating injury blow to superstar fullback James Tedesco in the 2020 State of Origin decider was “a big part” of his thinking in picking this year’s team.

The Blues weren’t prepared when Tedesco left play and didn’t return after copping an accidental knee to the head from Maroons prop Josh Papalii in the 20th minute. Parramatta No.1 Clint Gutherson easily shifted from the centres to fullback, but back-rower Isaah Yeo was forced to play out of position as a centre, as the Blues crashed to a 20-14 defeat.

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Not only does Canberra weapon Jack Wighton this year give Fittler a man on the bench capable of playing at fullback, the most capped Blues player of the Origin era has two men who can play anywhere in the forward pack.

Fittler said he had Tedesco’s cruel injury blow at the front of his mind in selecting South Sydney back-rower Cameron Murray and Penrith second-rower Liam Martin for this year’s Origin opener.

“I coached Cam as an 18-year-old. He was our captain for NSW. He played on the edge, he’s played on the edge for South Sydney. I just think he’s one of those players who can play anywhere,” Fittler said on Wide World of Sports’ The Sunday Footy Show.

“Liam Martin’s played a lot of second row with Nathan Cleary; he played the whole of last year on the right edge (with Penrith). So he won’t feel out of place there. And Liam Martin has also been playing a lot of middle.

“So the team covers a lot of positions.

“We got caught out last year. When Teddy went down we didn’t have someone like that on the bench that could cover fullback.

“So that was a big part of my thinking when I picked the team (this year).”

Murray is set for his fifth Origin appearance and Martin his debut.

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