If you only listen to the noise coming from Blues coach Brad Fittler and the rest of the NSW staff at camp, Latrell Mitchell’s shock withdrawal from the squad due to injury is just one speed bump on the road to victory – but professional gamers tell a very different story.
Fittler praised the Souths full-back for pulling out of the squad with a calf injury on Monday, calling his decision “selfless” as it allowed Penrith star Stephen Crichton to take his place.
The Blues boss said his withdrawal was “disappointing” and “a pity” – but the country’s top bettors are using slightly stronger language.
betting agency BetRightCEO Anthony Waller said the Blues were already unsure of beating the Maroons in the opener at Adelaide Oval on Wednesday night, but news of Mitchell has shaken up the betting landscape.
NSW manager Brad Fittler has played down what the loss of Latrell Mitchell (pictured in training) will mean for the team when they clash with Queensland on Wednesday night
The Blues have a great replacement in Stephen Crichton (pictured) – but the smart money says he can’t fill the huge hole the Souths superstar left behind
“We viewed NSW as a risk and bet the best price,” Waller explained.
“Latrell Mitchell’s exclusion has caused a seismic shift in the markets at least equal to the 3.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Melbourne.
“With Latrell it makes it a bit of a draw and Queensland look stronger.”
A quick overview of BetRight market Tuesday afternoon showed NSW paying $1.87 to win, with the Maroons sitting on $1.95.
Mitchell’s scraping also caused Queensland to change their game plan.
Coach Billy Slater moved the lightning fast Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow to the left side of the pitch, pitting him against Tom Trbojevic in the crosses.
The Manly superstar was under something of an injury cloud before Origin as he looked visibly hampered by a groin injury and seemed unable to hit maximum pace.
If there is a lingering issue affecting his speed, Tabuai-Fidow is a prime candidate to exploit it with the extreme pace that has seen him score 10 tries in just 11 games for the Dolphins this season.
Queensland have drawn up a plan to test Tom Trbojevic to the limit in light of Mitchell’s absence – with the Manly flyer looking unable to hit full stride ahead of Origin
“I’m going to reduce their thinking time,” Tabuai-Fidow said of his Game 1 defense priority.
“I have the speed and I feel stronger this year too. With this speed and strength, I think it will be a good battle in the crosses, and I can be a threat too.
The change means Valentine Holmes will mark Crichton on the other side of the pitch, with Matt Burton replacing the Panthers flyer as the 18th man for the Blues.
“When I got the call for the 18th man, I knew I had to be ready for anything,” Crichton said.
“I prepared like I was starting, so if something like this happens I won’t look back and think I should have done this or I should have done that.
Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow (pictured with the ball in Queensland training) is one of the NRL’s best players with 10 tries in 11 games for the Dolphins – and his electric pace could be a big test for Trbojevic at Adelaide Oval
“Now that the opportunity is there, I want it and I’m ready to go.”
Fittler said he had no worries throwing Crichton into the mix after appearing in all three games of last year’s series.
“He’s played in big games, he’s been in big finals and won big finals and done a good job at the World Cup (with Samoa) and with us,” Fittler said.
“He will not be overwhelmed by the situation. We had a move called ‘Latrell’ so Stephen may have to adapt to that.
Fittler said he had no fears about halfback Nathan Cleary’s infected tooth.
The Penrith No.7 won the premiership in 2021 while playing with a labral tear in his shoulder during the second half of the season.
“He’s had it (the teeth problem) for months so there’s no problem and he’ll play and there’s never been a problem that meant he wasn’t going to play,” said said Fittler.
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