It means seven Panthers are set to be among Fittler’s 17 at Optus Stadium, with Stephen Crichton set to earn promotion to the starting squad after Wighton tested positive for COVID-19.
It’s a reprieve for Koroisau, who feared for his future at Origin after breaking COVID-19 protocols by bringing a woman to the Blues’ team hotel the night before last year’s second game. He was suspended for two games and fined $50,000 by the NRL and NSWRL.
But a conversation with Fittler ensured he would not be blacklisted for future selection, and his outstanding form for the table-top Panthers earned him a place on the bench for Game 2.
Asked about his bubble burst ahead of Game 1 of this year’s series, Koroisau said, “Certainly, I thought that was the end for me. I thought that was it. But all I could do back then was learn from it and grow as a person.
Crichton was used on the bench in Game 1, but selectors gave serious thought to picking him on the running squad against Staggs – even before Wighton’s withdrawal.
But the biggest talking point was Burton, who came to life in the past month after a rocky start to life at the Bulldogs.
His trademark rainmaking bombs will be used as a second kicking option alongside vice-captain Nathan Cleary, and he’ll have no problem playing on the left side alongside former Penrith teammates Jarome Luai and Brian To’o.
Burton played in centers last year and scored the first try in the Grand Final. The Blues selectors had no problem including him in the position for his first taste of the Origin despite returning to his more familiar five-eights position at the Bulldogs.
Roosters striker Angus Crichton is another to be recalled to the Blues squad after being left out of the series opener at Accor Stadium. There was, however, no room for Josh Addo-Carr, who shone again for the Bulldogs at CommBank Stadium.
Joseph Suaalii is expected to be used as the team’s 18th man.
Meanwhile, South Sydney striker Jai Arrow will be part of Billy Slater’s second game squad following a hamstring injury to Queensland striker Reuben Cotter.
Maroons prop Lindsay Collins will be free to play in Game 2 after being fined for a lifting tackle in the Roosters’ loss to the Eels on Saturday night. Collins will face a $2,500 penalty for an early guilty plea after being hit by a dangerous freshman pitch on Waqa Blake.
Murray Taulagi is set to take wing for injured Xavier Coates, who will miss the rest of the series with a syndesmosis issue.
Patrick Carrigan, arguably Queensland’s best player in Game 1, is likely to join the starting squad in place of Cotter.
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