Crucial Sunday looms before Blues pick Origin I squad

Scott Bailey |

NSW officials are bracing for a crucial final day of football before State of Origin selections are made with the make up of the Blues backline still up in the air.

Josh Addo-Carr is set to make his return from syndesmosis surgery on Sunday afternoon against Gold Coast, with Canterbury confirming he is fine to play this week.

The Bulldogs winger is pushing to make his return to the Blues side after being controversially overlooked last year, adamant one game is enough to prove his fitness.

Tom Trbojevic will then run out for Manly two hours later against Canberra.

It would have been inconceivable to think two years ago Trbojevic was not an automatic selection for NSW.

But there remain concerns from Blues officials he is operating at closer to 80 per cent than 100 per cent, with Sunday’s match his last chance to prove otherwise.

Brian To’o is certain to play on one wing with Latrell Mitchell also locked in at left centre and James Tedesco at fullback.

But the Blues must decide what to do with the other wing and centre spot before coach Brad Fittler names his team at 8am on Monday.

Fittler could well opt for the experience of Trbojevic and Addo-Carr after Sunday’s games, but if he doesn’t then South Sydney centre Campbell Graham is most likely to debut.

The centre scored a try for the Rabbitohs in their loss to Parramatta on Friday night, but Fittler was particularly critical of his defence in Nine’s commentary in the lead up to an Eels four-pointer.

Graham is confident he is ready to play Origin football but said he had tried to avoid the speculation becoming a distraction in recent months.

“If the opportunity arises, I am ready,” Graham said. 

“There are plenty of people champing at the bit to play for NSW and I am one of them.

“Player names are tossed up for Origin, it’s not like it’s anyone’s jersey. It’s no one’s jersey to lose. There is plenty of stiff competition out there. 

“The moment you start letting it impact you (it’s a problem). A big focus has been not letting it impact me over the past couple of weeks.”

Stephen Crichton and Matt Burton are the other less likely options at centre, after playing there last year.

Jarome Luai is expected to hold onto his spot and play alongside Nathan Cleary in the halves, leaving Nicho Hynes hoping for a spot on Fittler’s bench.

If NSW go with both Apisai Koroisau and Damien Cook – with one starting and the other at No.14 – it’s hard to see how Hynes will be selected.

Otherwise Fittler will have a hard call to make on which dummy-half to leave out.

Jake Trbojevic will also spend Sunday trying to prove his fitness on his return from a calf injury to feature in the Blues’ pack, leaving the likes of Hudson Young, Tevita Tatola and Haumole Olakau’atu fighting to earn a debut.