Blues center Matt Burton has dismissed concerns about his Origin III eligibility after failing training on Wednesday as Chad Townsend prepares to join the NSW squad after Nicho Hynes tested positive for COVID.
Hynes was briefly in the NSW camp on Monday but did not travel with the squad to Kingscliff as he was due to play for Cronulla in Thursday night’s game against the Storm until a positive PCR test ruled him out on Wednesday.
Blues officials said all other 21 players had returned negative RAT tests.
The Sharks playmaker was 18th man in Perth and was due to join the Blues camp on Friday but will now be quarantined in Sydney. His Sharks teammate Toby Rudolf also tested positive.
NSW officials said Hynes was only with the squad from 3-5pm Monday at an airport hotel and all players and staff were tested for RAT twice a day, with all results showing negative.
Blues coach Brad Fittler confirmed that Townsend was ready to join the squad as he will not have a backup halfback in camp should anything happen to Nathan Cleary ahead of next Wednesday night’s series decider at Suncorp Stadium.
Jack Wighton has been named as the 18th man, while Burton could also fill the five-eighth role if needed, with Jarome Luai shifting to halfback.
Mitchell Moses replaced Cleary in third Origin last year but he has NRL commitments with Parramatta on Saturday and Fittler said Townsend could join the camp immediately now that North Queensland has parted ways.
“We spoke to Chad Townsend and he would like to come in as the Cowboys are not playing,” Fittler told 2GB on Wednesday night†
“He can come down tonight and be involved in camp so it’s great news and he’s in excellent shape.”
Townsend showed his pride at the call on Wednesday night with a tweet.
Meanwhile, Burton is expected to train with the Blues on Thursday after Fittler and his coaching staff decided not to take any chances with a minor calf injury that hindered the Bulldogs star.
Wighton trained in place of Burton at left center where he lost 16-10 in the series at Accor Stadium before being banned from Origin II due to COVID.
Burton, who kept his place for Wighton after his Perth debut, insisted he was fine but NSW staff felt it was better for him to avoid the heavy ground at Cudgen after the constant rain in northern NSW since late last week.
“Obviously it’s a bit slippery out there so we didn’t think it was worth the risk today, but I’d like to go tomorrow,” said Burton. “It’s been a long week, so I didn’t want to take any chances.”
The Blues flew to Kingscliff on Monday evening to escape the storm in Sydney, but conditions were slightly better in Lismore on Tuesday. where the team trained barefoot on a muddy Oakes Oval, or Cudgen.
Burton talks us through his Origin debut
The team was initially scheduled to train at Les Burger Fields in Kingscliff, but the ground was not in a suitable condition after hosting local matches in the wet conditions.
However, NSW officials may have to find another training ground if the rain continues, as the field at Cudgen Leagues Club was heavily flooded on Wednesday.
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