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Talking Points, NSW Blues vs Queensland Maroons, game one, Billy Slater, Brad Fittler, bench, Cameron Murray, Kalyn Ponga

Brad Fittler’s call to bench two of his best forwards before kick-off has been put under the microscope as the NSW pack was outplayed in their 16-10 Origin series opening loss.

Meanwhile, Billy Slater produced some tactical masterstrokes with his interchange to help Queensland turn momentum in their favor against the run of play.

Read on for all the Origin I Talking Points.

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BLUES LATE CHANGES CALLED INTO QUESTION

Brad Fittler sprung some selection surprises when he benched Junior Paulo and Cameron Murray for Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Liam Martin before kick-off.

Given they lost the game questions will inevitably be asked if Fittler made the right call to push two of his best forwards to the bench.

Cooper Cronk believes the Blues forwards will have a rocket put under them by the Blues coaching staff after they were outplayed by their Maroons counterparts.

“I think the middle forwards of NSW will get a stern talking to from Brad Fittler and Greg Alexander leading into game two because they lost a bit of momentum,” Cronk said.

“They weren’t outworked or anything. It was just they didn’t get enough forward momentum and quick play-the-balls for their stars to do their thing.”

Braith Anasta questioned if Fittler’s call to bench Murray and Paulo was needed.

“Did you find it an unusual one to start with Martin instead of Murray?” Anasta asked.

“Did it work? Did you think that was necessary?”

Cronk didn’t mind the call from Fittler, but believes the Blues need to do more as a forward pack to match the Maroons in the middle.

“I actually liked it,” Cronk replied.

“Murray is the go to man for Cook, so you want him in and around the middle third, but Isaah Yeo is that guy. He is the player that dictates terms.

“I thought Martin should have started when the teams were named.

“I think you put Payne Haas, RCG, Ryan Matterson and Junior Paulo. If you get those four guys bashing down that front wall and skittling defenders, I think you will see more of Damien Cook, you will see Tedesco and you will definitely see Nathan Cleary more on the front foot.”

SUPERHUMAN efforts see Maroons hold on | 00:59

COBBO AND COTTER SHINE ON DEBUT

The biggest question mark around the Maroons heading into the game was whether their beginners could make the step up to Origin, and to a man they stood up, particularly Reuben Cotter and Selwyn Cobbo.

Cooper Cronk lauded Cotter’s performance as he played 80 minutes and a number of positions as Queensland battled an injury crisis.

“Reuben Cotter we spoke about him being that dog with a bone and chasing anything that moves,” Cronk said.

“He was like that for 80 minutes. He was in the middle. He went out to the edge when Nanai was off.

“I think some players get to this level and they start thinking they should do other things that players before them have done.

“When you get picked it is because you are good at something. Stick to it and play within yourself.

“He didn’t do anything fancy, but he held down the middle third and tackled anything that moved and took some tough carries. He is not a big body. he took the handbrake off and went straight into them.”

Braith Anasta was full of praise for Cotter, who he believes made Origin look easy.

“Cotter was my favourite,” Anasta said.

“He has done it for North Queensland, but the transition into Origin is next level and he did it with ease.

“He never looked tired. He was everywhere. The energy and he doesn’t stop moving. He did not stop for 80 minutes.

“There were injuries and he would have gone to a dark place one or two times, but you wouldn’t have known it. He was so good.”

Anasta also marveled at Cobbo’s ability to turn the game with his try assist for Gagai in the first half.

“I thought Cobbo was brilliant,” Anasta said.

“He was safe under the high ball and that kick back on the inside for Gagai was a game changer.

“This is a young kid who didn’t shy away in the bright lights and came up with a momentum swinger in his first Origin.

“If he doesn’t kick that back on the inside and pick up that poor pass from Ponga and find Gagai they don’t get on the scoreboard and NSW were dominating early.”

Magical Cobbo conjures QLD’s first try | 00:54

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SLATER’S MASTERSTOKE CHANGES AS HE BRINGS OUT BEST IN PONGA

Billy Slater saw his first Origin game as coach slipping away from Queensland’s grasp in the first half before he came up with some gutsy early substitutions that turned the match on its head.

Cooper Cronk praised the decision to bring on Harry Grant, Lindsay Collins and Patrick Carrigan as a masterstroke that turned the game in Queensland’s favour.

“I thought Patrick Carrigan and Lindsay Collins and Harry Grant after 25 minutes actually changed the momentum back in Queensland’s favour,” Cronk said.

“Jack Wighton scored in 15 minutes then Dane Gagai scored at the 35 minute mark, so they wrestled it back in control.

“Grant looked dangerous but those two guys Carrigan and Collins were rock solid through the middle third.”

Anasta believes it was an excellent call to let Ben Hunt take the sting of the early exchanges and allow Grant to come on and work his magic in the back half of the first 40.

“The start of an Origin is always really hard and intense and Ben Hunt is tough,” Anasta said.

“He got the job done early and Harry came on and he was just relentless out of dummyhalf.

“He just ran the footy and whenever the markers were slow or he had one marker he ran and he got the team on the front foot.

“For the time he was son that field he made Queensland a better side.”

Anasta and Cronk also believe Slater succeeded in getting the best out of Kalyn Ponga at fullback, who was one of the Maroons most influential stars.

“Like Cooper Cronk said before the game Billy got the best out of Kalyn Ponga,” Anasta said.

“Ponga in that second half was brilliant. He looked nice on that left hand side when he gave Payne Haas the eyeball and threw that cut out pass, which beat Tupou onto Val Holmes and he came up with the big play when they needed it most.”

“I think tonight we saw Kalyn Ponga touch the ball in more threatening positions for Queensland than we have seen all season for the Newcastle Knights,” Cronk said.

“That was terrifying for Payne Haas against Kalyn Ponga 10 meters out from the line.”

Was Paulo unfairly held on DCE try? | 00:50

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COOK UNDER PRESSURE AS BLUES ATTACK STALLS

Damien Cook could find himself under pressure from Api Koroisau for game two after he failed to ignite the Blues’ attack in game one.

Cook had zero run meters at halftime and Anasta believes Murray’s absence hurt Cook’s running game.

“I think with Cook, what triggers Cook is Murray,” Anasta said.

“Even with Souths, Murray’s carries is what sets off Cook and that’s when he’s off and running and at his best.

“He didn’t really see any light until Murray came on and they’ve got that combination at club land.

“I thought Cook had to be better early then what he was and it took too long for him to get into the game, but then he had some really nice touches.

“That might be an area that comes under a bit of criticism I believe.”

However, Anasta believes Brad Fittler will stick solid with Cook although he conceded it was a valid selection talking point ahead of the must-win game two.

“I think they’ll stick (keeping Cook), but I think there’s going to be people saying should Api Koroisau be there?” Anasta said.

“I think after this game there will be heat on Cook and there’ll be heat on the selectors and Brandy and Freddy.”

New South Wales Press Conference | 07:28

BLUES HALVES CLUNKY AS CRICHTON STRUGGLES ON DEBUT

The Blues halves Jarome Luai and Nathan Cleary and Panthers teammate Stephen Crichton struggled in game one.

Braith Anasta believes the pressure is on the Penrith and NSW playmakers to get more involved in game two with the series on the line.

“The play from Luai was really good but it was too late,” Anasta said.

“They made a run late and they nearly got home NSW, but there was a period there for 20 or 30 minutes where their attack was pretty ordinary and their go-forward wasn’t where it needed to be.

“Cook wasn’t running enough out of dummyhalf. There wasn’t enough time and space for Cleary and Luai.

“Clear was very quiet. Cleary really didn’t have much impact.”

Crichton also struggled in his bench role and gave away a crucial penalty as soon as he came on the field.

Wighton MUSCLES over for opener | 00:36

FINAL PLAY CONTROVERSY MARS EPIC FINISH

Queensland were clearly the better team, but the Blues can feel a little hard done by over the controversial final play of the game.

Just as they did in a controversial finish to game one of the 2020 series, Queensland lay all over Blues player Isaah Yeo as the clock ran down and Ashley Klein failed to blow a penalty.

It was good gamesmanship from the Maroons, but Klein should have taken some form of action against Queensland for laying on Yeo too long before blowing the final whistle.

Cooper Cronk believes Queensland were smart to push for conceding a penalty over a try as time expired.

“That was a big play as the siren went and Kalyn Ponga with the try-saving tackle and it was a bit contentious,” Cronk said.

“I thought the ball could have got away but it was smart from Queensland to lay over it and give away the penalty.”

However, Braith Anasta has no doubt Klein should have made a call one way or another rather than just blow full-time.

“He should have been allowed to play that,” Anasta said of Yeo’s final play-the-ball.

“It should have been six again and play on. But if it is a penalty there they get to tap and go.

“But if it is six again if the hooter goes it doesn’t matter.

“That new rule could have possibly cost NSW one more play at at least leveling the scores up.”

‘That new rule… cost New South Wales’ | 00:39

PAPALI’S LACK OF MINUTES PUZZLES

They may have won the game, but Queensland enforcer Josh Papalii’s lack of minutes was confusing to say the least.

In an inexperienced pack, Papalii played the first 16 minutes and did not return for his second stint until the 77th minute logging just 19 total minutes for the match.

“Papalii only played the first 16 minutes and then sat on the bench for a long period,” Cronk said.

“He came back in the last 10.”

Anasta believes questions would have been asked if Queensland didn’t come away with the win.

“He played the last three minutes,” Anasta said of Papalii.

“He was off the field from the 16th minute until the 77th minute.

“Why would Papalii be left off the field with so many injuries? They needed experience in the pack too.

“I’m interested in hearing the explanation on that one. I know they won but if they lose the game with one of their most experienced players and forwards who is a leader off the field for that period of time.”

Queensland Maroons Press Conference | 17:48

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