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‘Not many changes’: NSW won’t swing axe for Origin III

NSW Origin star Payne Haas aggravated an ankle injury in Brisbane's win over the Dolphins.

NSW Origin star Payne Haas aggravated an ankle injury in Brisbane's win over the Dolphins. Photo: AAP

Brad Fittler says he will resist the urge to swing the axe to the NSW side thrashed in the second State of Origin match as the Blues fight to avoid a series whitewash in game three.

But injuries could force Fittler’s hand, with the Blues’ best player in Origin II prop forward Payne Haas racing the clock to overcome a persistent ankle injury in tie for the July 12 finale at Sydney’s Accor Stadium.

The coach is also going back to the drawing board for a centre after Tom Trbojevic suffered a pectoral injury in Origin II, but frontrunner Campbell Graham will not be considered for a Blues debut due to a sternum issue.

NSW and Queensland will name their line-ups for the third match of the series on Monday.

“There’ll be a couple of changes. Obviously Tom Trbojevic is out,” Fittler told the Nine Network.

“There will be a few changes but not many. At the end of the day, the scorelines got away from us up there (in Origin II) but I don’t think we’re too far away.”

Manly coach Anthony Seibold has given Fittler his blessing to select 15-time Blue Jake Trbojevic after he made an early and successful return from a calf injury in the 18-16 defeat of the Sydney Roosters on Sunday.

Despite the eldest Trbojevic initially being ruled out of the series, Seibold held no concerns of aggravating the injury if he played in Origin III.

“I always want the players to be aspirational,” he said.

“Jake has represented the Blues for a long period of time now, so if he gets selected then he goes with our best wishes.”

Despite recent debate about his form, Fittler’s comments appear to suggest captain James Tedesco may hold onto his spot at fullback. Tedesco last night was confident he was still the man to lead NSW.

“Of course,” he said after Sydney Roosters’ loss to Manly. “I’ll wait for Origin if it comes and then I’ll get there and do my best.”

Haas aggravated his ankle injury during the second half of Brisbane’s NRL win over the Dolphins on Saturday night but managed to finish the game.

The Broncos do not believe the issue is severe, but concede it was bad enough that Haas felt the need to tell medical staff post-match.

The club will wait until Monday to make further assessments.

Fittler said he had yet to determine the prop’s availability but is likely to name him in the side, having done so with Liam Martin, Latrell Mitchell and Cam Murray when they entered camp for Origin II under injury clouds.

“(Haas) has had an ankle injury for a while now, a few weeks,” Fittler said.

“We’ll see how that is, the severity of that.”

In career-best form, South Sydney centre Graham was NSW’s 18th man for the series opener but withdrew from camp with his ongoing sternum injury.

Souths coach Jason Demetriou rested Graham for Friday night’s defeat of the Warriors and said he would do the same for the match against Canterbury on July 8.

The Rabbitohs told AAP it would be up to the Blues whether Graham was selected for the Origin game but Fittler confirmed on Sunday he wouldn’t be picked.

“Campbell won’t be considered,” Fittler said.

“I don’t believe he’ll be playing for a couple of weeks for the Bunnies,”

Queensland are expected to name much the same side that defeated the Blues 32-6 in Origin II but Kalyn Ponga will not be considered as a replacement option for the suspended Reece Walsh.

After Broncos speedster Walsh beat him to play fullback for Origin I, Ponga ruled himself out of the series to focus on his Newcastle duties following two long concussion lay-offs in the past year.

Walsh’s three-game, contrary-conduct suspension has not impacted coach Billy Slater’s position on selecting Ponga.

“The priority for Kalyn is just to keep on the field and do his job for the Knights,” Slater told the Nine Network.

“That decision was made pretty early that Kalyn wouldn’t come back for this third game.

“I’ve got no doubt that he’s going to represent Queensland again in the future.”

-AAP
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