NSW State of Origin coach Brad Fittler won’t hesitate to pick players out of position again as the Blues wrestle with an embarrassment of riches at fullback.
James Tedesco, Ryan Papenhuyzen, Latrell Mitchell, Tom Trbojevic and Clint Gutherson are arguably five of the best six fullbacks in the game, with Kalyn Ponga the only Queenslander.
Fittler last year made the call to play Gutherson and Canberra five-eighth Jack Wighton in the centres in the 2-1 series loss, in a move questioned by several critics.
Papenhuyzen didn’t get a game in the 2020 series, while Mitchell and Trbojevic were unavailable through injury.
Complicating the matter further is that there are no obvious centre options with Origin experience who currently play in the position at club level.
Fittler is yet to make any serious calls on his team, but says he wouldn’t be afraid to again find room for his best backs despite last year’s loss.
“If anything it shows you anyone can play anywhere if you’re team is playing well, going forward, holding the ball and in sync with the ref,” Fittler told AAP.
“But if you’re on the back foot and under pressure it’s crucial to have people in their position.
“It didn’t work for us last year but, in saying that, Kurt Capewell played centre (for Queensland) and did a great job.
“It works when everything else is working.
“I think Queensland at one stage had Darius and Greg Inglis and Billy Slater. Sometimes you have to find a way.”
Fittler, an early-to-bed, early-to-rise kind of guy, was out spreading awareness of the importance of rest on World Sleep Day on Friday.
The Resmed ambassador is always pushing the importance of sleep in body and mind recovery and urging people with trouble to have an assessment.
But he always has one eye on Origin.
His comments came after Gutherson turned in an impressive defensive performance on Thursday night.
The Eels fullback pulled off four try-savers against the Storm, prompting Slater to claim Parramatta wouldn’t swap him for any player in the NRL.
“(Gutherson) saved about four or five tries last night. He and Papenhuyzen, their positioning was incredible,” Fittler said.
“You weigh it all up, sometimes you have the luxury of depth … Other times you need to adapt.
“It also comes down to fitness. You take everything into consideration but fitness at that level has to be the highest priority.
“You’ve just got to pick people who are as fit as possible and make the puzzle work.”