The New South Wales State of Origin squad has been stripped of searing pace, possibly the most marketable player in the NRL and a barrel of laughs.
But the rugby league world’s shock at the dumping of long-time Blues winger Josh Addo-Carr has left Brad Fittler blindsided.
“Well I’m surprised that people would be surprised,” Fittler told 9News.
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Fittler dropped a selection bomb when he cut Addo-Carr from his squad for game one and replaced the Bulldogs recruit with Daniel Tupou, recalling the Roosters veteran for his first Origin match since the Blues’ unsuccessful 2020 decider.
Addo-Carr has featured in every Origin match since the 2018 opener and scored 10 tries from 12 games in a sparkling career in the sky blue.
But Tupou and Panthers pocket rocket Brian To’o will line up on the wings when the Blues collide with the Maroons at Sydney’s Stadium Australia on June 8.
Tupou played in all three games of the 2014 series, made one appearance in 2015 and, after a long time on the outer, suited up for the Blues’ entire 2020 campaign.
The towering 30-year-old has regained his spot amid a long stretch of hot form, including eight tries from 11 NRL games this season, as well as a strong connection with Fittler.
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“He’s pretty much been the best winger for a number of years,” Fittler said.
“He’s always on my radar.
“I’ve coached (Tupou) in the City team and State of Origin previously, and I’ve always loved him being part of my teams.”
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It’s feasible that one reason for Addo-Carr’s axing is the terrible form of Canterbury, who the 26-year-old joined during the off-season following five years with Melbourne.
Addo-Carr has had a strong individual start at his time at Belmore, having tallied six tries from 11 games for a side that scores very few points.
But the Bulldogs have won just two of 12 games and are languishing on the bottom of the ladder.
When Mick Potter was told of Addo-Carr’s expected Origin omission after the Bulldogs’ loss to the Dragons on Sunday, the interim Canterbury coach was perplexed.
“Yeah, (it would surprise me). He is the incumbent, and a very good Origin player,” Potter said.
“I would be surprised if he’s not in the team, and he would be disappointing for Josh.
“I hope that’s not the case.”
Bulldogs captain Josh Jackson, himself a former Blues representative, was also stunned.
“He brings a lot to a footy team. He’s been very good in that Origin side for a few years now. He’s put in some great performances (for NSW), so it would be disappointing for him,” Jackson said.
“Just the energy he brings around the place, too – he’s pretty infectious.
“So I imagine that’s something Brad Fittler would like in his Origin camp throughout the week.”
The Bulldogs skipper is probably right, but not everyone can be picked – and on this occasion Fittler’s snubbed ‘The Foxx’.
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