NSW great Brad Fittler has called for fresh blood in the Blues’ line-up, with Jack Bird and Bryce Cartwright set for State of Origin auditions in Sunday’s City-Country clash.
In the wake of last year’s humiliating 52-6 game three defeat to Queensland, NSW coach Laurie Daley has vowed to stay loyal to his incumbents but City coach Fittler said changes needed to be made.
There is ongoing debate about the merits of the City-Country clash, to be played at Tamworth’s Scully Park, as an Origin trial, however Fittler said the game had tremendous meaning for the likes of Cronulla teammates Bird and James Maloney, as well as Penrith’s Cartwright.
“It’s not my job to pick the NSW team but they did get beaten by 50,” Fittler said.
“Everyone is up for selection. (Bird and Cartwright) seem to be the blokes coming through so they’re the blokes who we’ve got to sell what we’re saying about attention to detail.
“Queensland have had senior players selling that message to young fellas really well so that’s somewhere we haven’t naturally excelled.”
Fittler reiterated his call that Cartwright, who will line up for his City team, should have instead been playing in the back-row for Australia against New Zealand this weekend.
For Bird, the game is a chance to show what he can do with the ball in hand after last month declaring that “it gets pretty boring” playing at centre for the Sharks at club level.
He’s been picked in the halves alongside Maloney, who is line for a Blues halves recall.
After bursting onto the scene and winning the Dally M rookie of the year medal at five-eighth last year, Bird was shifted to the three-quarter line to accommodate Maloney’s arrival at the club.
But the 21-year-old is blessed with the rare ability to play almost anywhere on the park, having nearly grabbed the Sharks fullback spot this year, and has been earmarked for a future in the second-row.
Despite having made just 32 first grade appearances, he’s now being measured up for the NSW bench utility role and could clinch it with a standout performance against City.
“He can probably push in as a roaming forward, he’s quite a solid character and he’s just a footballer,” Maloney said of Bird.
“He just plays off instinct and he’s got natural footballing ability.
“That makes him dangerous no matter what position he plays in.”
STATS THAT MATTER
* Since the concept began in 1987, City has won 13 of 26 matches, Country has had 11 victories and there has been one draw.
* City has won just one of the last six clashes.
* Four players in last year’s match – Josh Jackson, Daniel Tupou, Andrew Fifita and David Klemmer – went on to play for the Blues.