Lomax defends NSW’s Origin fight as Latrell calls grow

Scott Bailey |

Zac Lomax says the passion still burned for NSW in a ‘courageous’ effort with 12 men in Origin I.
Zac Lomax says the passion still burned for NSW in a ‘courageous’ effort with 12 men in Origin I.

Zac Lomax has praised his NSW teammates for their “courageous” response to Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii’s send-off in the State of Origin series opener as Michael Maguire faces renewed calls to pick Latrell Mitchell.

Lomax, one of the Blues’ best performers in Wednesday’s 38-10 loss to Queensland, backed up in superb style just two days later with a 32-point haul in St George Illawarra’s 56-14 hammering of Wests Tigers.

The winger’s display on his Origin debut was all the more impressive considering he had lost Suaalii, the centre defending inside him, in the opening 10 minutes.

Lomax, who is expected to retain his spot in Maguire’s side for game two in Melbourne on June 26, said critics couldn’t accuse the 12-man Blues of going down without swinging. 

“You can’t take anything away from our team in regards to effort. We were down to 12 men from the get-go,” Lomax said.

“We were scrambling and I guess for people to say that there wasn’t courage and a lot of heart … I thought the courage that our team showed was unbelievable.”

Latrell Mitchell.
Latrell Mitchell starred for Souths against the Titans, prompting calls for his Origin selection. (Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS)

Maguire came under scrutiny for failing to shore up the edge Suaalii had vacated, with the Maroons running amok down the Blues’ right edge.

“You’re trying to adapt but there’s a million different things being thrown at you,” Lomax said.

“You’ve got to adapt on the spot straight away because you’re playing against the best players in the world and they pick that stuff apart.

“It’s not ideal … but we go again and the best thing is we get game two.” 

With Queensland taking a 1-0 advantage to Melbourne – and with game three in Brisbane – Maguire has to carefully consider who replaces Suaalii in his NSW side.

Mitchell was left out of Maguire’s first squad but after a five-star showing in South Sydney’s win over the Gold Coast on Saturday is positioning himself as a natural replacement.

Blues great Andrew Johns said Mitchell was a “must pick”.

“Latrell just has to come in – there’s no ifs or buts,” Johns said on Nine’s Sunday Footy Show.

“There’s rumours floating around that something happened pre-camp that he didn’t talk to Madge or didn’t turn up or something. Who cares? Just get him in there.

“He destroyed them yesterday – he’s just got to be there.”