Maguire faces crunch centre call as Burton makes case

Jasper Bruce and Scott Bailey |

Michael Maguire faces a potentially series-defining choice between four centres as he prepares to enter State of Origin III without Latrell Mitchell.

Mitchell is expected to be ruled out of the July 17 decider on Sunday, only hours before Maguire unveils his team for Origin III at Suncorp Stadium.

Maguire would have entered this weekend hoping to be able to go into the decider unchanged, with NSW humming following their 38-18 win in Melbourne.

Instead, he has been handed one of the worst possible setbacks, with Mitchell thought to have suffered a potentially season-ruining foot injury.

Maguire does have options for left centre.

Bradman Best will likely be the leading contender, having scored a double for NSW on debut last year, before injury ruled him out of Origin I last month.

He must first get through the Knights’ clash with Canberra unscathed on Sunday afternoon, with Maguire to name his squad almost immediately after the game.

Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii is also available again after his ban for hitting Reece Walsh high in Origin I, with his four-game suspension now served.

Tom Trbojevic and Burton are the other options, with the former indicating he felt he would be ready for Origin after his return for Manly on Saturday night.

Burton, meanwhile, is the man with the momentum.

The two-time NSW centre said he would be ready if recalled on the back of his second game-winning performance for Canterbury in as many weeks.

Burton was unaware Mitchell’s Origin hopes had been thrown into doubt when he slotted a field goal to sink the Warriors 13-12 in extra time on Saturday.

“I don’t really know (about Mitchell’s injury),” he said.

“I’d be more than open to putting my hand up for NSW if they needed me. I’m ready.”

The 24-year-old was 18th man for the series opener – a role he has filled three times across the past two series.

He is keen to get back in camp if chosen at left centre – the position he played in Penrith’s 2021 premiership triumph.

“You can see in game two what they showed, there’s something special building there,” Burton said.

“It was unreal to be around the boys in game one.”

NSW left centre and Bulldogs captain Stephen Crichton believed Burton’s recent clutch performances for Canterbury proved his Origin mettle.

“He just didn’t shy away from it, trusted his process, and he’s done the same before playing centre as well,” Crichton said.

“He knows how to defend at centre and how to read shapes when they come. I’d definitely have confidence in him if he is selected for that left centre.”