Rarely in the 42-year history of State of Origin football has Lob made it behind enemy lines.
But New South Wales manager Brad Fittler has given fellow Queenslander Billy Slater a nod after repeating his two-pronged dummy half trick for the Blues’ must-win clash in Perth.
“Maybe they taught us a lesson,” Fittler admitted.
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After snubbing Apisai Koroisau for the opening game of the series, which Queensland won 16-10 in Sydney, Fittler dealt the Panthers rake the No. 9 knight and demoted Damien Cook to the bench for Sunday night’s game.
It’s a counterattack to the Maroons’ plan in the opening game, with Ben Hunt starting at the hooker and Harry Grant donning the No. 14 jersey, which Queensland kept for Sunday’s game.
“I thought the game would have been different, game one. We went through the middle with a couple of bigger players and… we just couldn’t generate much speed around the middle of the field,” Fittler told Nine 100% footy from the NSW camp.
“You were very good, Queensland. I found them outstanding.
“Maybe they taught us a lesson and we will fight it. We’ll have some smaller men there and see if we can generate some speed.”
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While Cook will forego a starting position for the first time in his 13-game Origin career, Koroisau will get his first chance on the run-on team.
In Koroisau’s only NSW appearance to date, the former Rabbitoh and Sea Eagle had about 20 minutes advantage in the third game of the 2021 series.
His inclusion in NSW 17 for the second game brings Penrith’s representation to seven, with Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai, Isaah Yeo, Liam Martin, Brian To’o and Stephen Crichton rounding out the rest.
Koroisau will also line up with former Panthers teammate Matt Burton, who has been named at the centers for the Blues.
“It was pretty obvious that we were kind of beaten down the middle,” Fittler said of the Blues’ loss in the opening game.
“With Apis Handwerk we can hopefully speed up our game on the ball a little bit and get our players on the ball. That’s the mentality behind it.”
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Slater’s explanation for the ‘temptation’ snub
Slater responded to Fittler’s dummy half-shake-up with a cross from the Queensland camp.
“I’m not sure if they were trying to copy it or if they thought it would work for us so they might try it,” Slater told Nine’s 100% footy.
“But look, at the end of the day we know Damien Cook is an electric player. We really have to be on our toes when he comes onto the field.
“Api Koroisau is a different No9 than Damien Cook. He pulled a lot of tricks out of that dummy half area so we need to be aware of that.
“Our centre-forwards, especially when they get tired, have to concentrate.
“I don’t really look into why they did it; I’m just looking at what they’ve done and how best we can reverse their impact.”
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