Brad Fittler has named his 20-man squad for the third and final match in the 2018 State of Origin series. Although the Blues already have possession of the shield they will be just as keen to inflict more damage on the Maroons next Wednesday night.
To say New South Wales owe their northern counterparts a few is a drastic understatement given the amount of pain inflicted by the almighty Maroons outfit.
Given the nature of the series results to date the Blues were never going to name a squad with many, if any changes, giving them the best chance to lift the shield at Suncorp off the back of a win and a 3-0 series whitewash.
With that said, Fitter has made one change, and in my mind it is a good one.
Tariq Sims has been named to make his Origin debut in Game Three. This comes on the back of being in camp with the Blues for the first two matches of the series.
In game two he, and Ryan James, were overlooked in favour of the vastly experienced and much safer option in Sharks and Dragons premiership winner Matt Prior.
With the series now won there is little to no risk in unleashing the more ferocious Sims.
At 28 years of age the Dragons back rower is in career best form and will be salivating at the thought of running out onto a hostile Suncorp Stadium next Wednesday night to battle the Queenslanders.
Ridiculously, some people have come out and said that Fittler is correcting the error he made in game two when he selected Prior, but I believe Fittler has got it right, just as he did when he selected Prior.
Prior was a selection based on circumstance. Sure he’s not the flashiest front rower in the game. He’s certainly not going to bust a game open in the way a Fifita or Taupau would, but he played the perfect role in Origin Two.
He was selected as an experienced front rower who you could depend on.
He was selected in the run on squad to provide stability, to not give away any penalties and defend until the juice had run out of the QLD pack. He did just that.
People point to the fact he only made a few runs and played minimal minutes. The fact that the Blues selected a pack consisting of almost all 80 minute players meant Prior could play his role before others were injected.
Prior has two premiership rings and plenty of big game experience. He doesn’t give away stupid penalties and is reliable in defence and with the ball. He literally played his role to perfection.
With the series won the Blues can now turn to the younger and more damaging Sims.
To debut a 28-year-old who, with all due respect, has a penalty and drop ball in his game, would have been risky. The pressure is insane with the series on the line. Prior was the perfect solution for the moment.
Now, Sims can be injected in the back row or in the middle depending on Fittler’s rotation. He won’t be required to play huge minutes or make a mountain of tackles meaning his 30-or-so minute stint in Origin Three will be one of great impact.
Sims, form allowing, could feasibly play the next six Origin series’. He will be much better for having debuted in this series after spending the first two games in camp.
There is literally no down side to this decision, just as there was no down side to playing Prior in game two.
Fittler has nailed every selection decision put in front of him for the entire series. The fact he broke QLD’s winning streak despite falling 10-0 behind in the second game speaks volumes.
Blues sides in the past would have seen 10-0, panic would have set in and Wednesday-week’s game would be a live fixture.
Instead the Blues can kick back, relax and plot a bash and crash win to secure a 3-0 series win and lift the trophy on the back of victory.
That, in large part, is down to Brad Fittler’s ability to get every selection correct. Just as he has done here.
Ryan James can probably could himself unlucky not to be running out in sky blue next week, but who do you drop for the Titans big man?
Sims deserved his jersey, with de Belin and Jake Turbo able to move into the front rowers spot when Vaughan or Klemmer take a breather.
You can’t drop Tyrone Peachy given his ability to cover an outside back, halves or back row position if an injury occurs.
Ryan James will play plenty of Origin footy in the upcoming years. I’m not a betting man but if I were my money would be on a 2019 debut for the in form, try-scoring front rower.