Queensland legend Corey Parker struggles to see “value” in New South Wales by playing Stephen Crichton on the bench – and not the centers – for Origin I.
But Alex McKinnon believes Jack Wighton’s controversial midfield selection call is a “safe one” and Blues coach Brad Fittler is right.
Fittler shocked a lot of people in the game when he named Wighton in the No. 4 jersey and Crichton — a premiership winning outer back — on the bench.
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Rumors have been circulating for the past week that there would be a late switch, but Blues advisor Greg Alexander confirmed on Tuesday on the Fox League podcast that there will be no changes.
“Jack will start in the centers,” Alexander said.
“Those rumors have been circulating since the side was announced, but Jack will start in the centers.”
McKinnon told the Fox League podcast that he is a huge fan of the call.
“I love it,” he said.
“Jack Wighton is a player I would have on my team any week. Any Origin (side) I would pick would definitely be in it.
“He’s tough, he’s sincere, he competes, he’s a good ball runner and in the middle he defends in that position as a half anyway, so it’s not really much of a difference.
“I think it’s a big question for Crichton to make his debut in Origin at left centre. Dane Gagai, who he’ll be up against, is a very experienced player and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him do a bad game for Queensland to play.
“It’s all about kick-chasing, fighting and carrying from your own side. I think Jack Wighton does that really well. He’s such a strong body, he’s physical and he’s a bit older.”
However, Parker, who played 19 games for the Maroons, had a different opinion.
“I kind of disagree… He’s a great player, Crichton, I really do,” Parker told the Fox League podcast.
“I just don’t see the value of a rookie – especially an outsider – sitting on the couch that long and using up that nervous energy (and) how it’s going to be positive.
“Jack is Jack and he can play anywhere, but I don’t see Stephen Crichton going in at fullback when things aren’t going well – it just doesn’t happen – because that’s even more pressure. Interesting to watch.”
“I think it’s a safe decision from Freddy,” McKinnon replied before answering Queensland’s “risky” call to pick 20-year-old Selwyn Cobb, who has played just 19 NRL games.
“If you look at Queensland, they picked Cobbo on the wing. He’s been incredible to start the season – I think that’s a huge call as well.
“I think he’ll blow them apart on Wednesday night. Really, I think he’ll be incredible. Corey Oates was probably one of the wingers of the league this year.”
Parker interrupted with, “He did have a chance.”
“I totally agree,” McKinnon replied.
“I just think it’s a bit riskier decision by Billy (Slater), but it’s the way I would have gone – I would have chosen Cobbo.
“He’s going to be a superstar in the Origin arena, but a few dropped balls, debuting in Origin, you never know how things can change.”
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One of the other big selection calls that drew quite a bit of criticism was the omission of mainstay Josh Addo-Carr.
Veteran Rooster Daniel Tupou has instead been recalled to play his eighth Origin game since his 2014 debut.
Fittler also selected Tupou’s Roosters teammate, 18-year-old Joseph Suaalii in the expanded squad over Addo-Carr.
While Tupou has nearly 200 games worth of NRL experience on Suaalii, the proud Queenslander Parker admitted he would actually be “a little more threatened” if Suaalii was playing.
“I’m not going to argue with the NSW selectors, but I have to admit I was shocked about that (Addo-Carr gets locked out),” he said.
“Daniel Tupou has been there before and done that job before – and good luck to him. There were some issues with Daniel Tupou’s hands coming from his own side so hopefully we can make some mistakes.
“But personally I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid if they’d picked Suaalii on the wing. For the type of player he is, his future and where he is now, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid.
“Actually I would have been a bit more threatened if Suaalii had been picked on the wing over Tupou and that doesn’t take away from Tupou.
“I am so impressed with Suaalii, especially from his areas of effort. After a kickoff, the first rower goes, then Suaalii goes straight into their teeth all day. It’s very similar to what Cobbo does.”
“I would have preferred them to go to Suaalii and I honestly believe that if he hadn’t been headbutted to the squad leading up to the game, I think he would have been on the wing,” he said.
“I think the head knock is probably the reason they didn’t pick him. He’s a young kid.”
Like Addo-Carr, Jake Trbojevic will also have to watch from home after missing roster for Game 1.
Matty Johns recently said the Blues will miss Trbojevic’s “emotion”, his “leadership” and his ability to “lift the guys around him”.
Parker admitted that Trbojevic’s passion is initially a loss to NSW, but in terms of style of play, not so much.
“At the beginning of the week when they read the team magazine and Jake Trbojevic is not there, they all feel for him because he is that person when teams are chosen on top men, he is your skipper every day of the week,” Parker said. .
“But the reality is the position he plays – lock forward – Isaah Yeo is ahead of him.
“You put him on the bench and go ‘we need someone to inject a go forward and change the momentum and unfortunately that’s not Jake’s go.
“When I look at Ryan Matterson, who is definitely doing that for the Eels and I look at Reagan Campbell Gillard, these guys are going to be a bit progressive.”
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But McKinnon disagreed, revealing that he is concerned about Campbell-Gillard and Matterson.
“I think with Trbojevic you can rely on him defensively during that ten minute period where you can take it in,” he said.
“I actually have questions about Matterson and Campbell-Gillard and whether they can really hold up.
“Campbell-Gillard has had his chance before and I think Matterson is a great club player but I don’t know if he is strong enough and how he will handle the Origin arena.
“I thought about Jake Trbojevic on the team and I went ‘would he be on the team if Tom Trbojevic played?’ Do you think they would have picked him?”
Parker replied with, “No. Not me.”
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