Freddy rejects ‘hilarious’ Papenhuyzen call
Brad Fittler has defended his decision not to select Ryan Papenhuyzen and gone into bat for halfback Nathan Cleary as the Blues coach looks to rebound from his first series defeat.
Fittler has come under fire in some quarters for not selecting Papenhuyzen as a bench utility, a decision which backfired when skipper James Tedesco was concussed in the opening quarter of Wednesday's 20-14 loss at Suncorp Stadium.
Cleary has also come underfire after the Blues let the chance for a third straight series win slip through their fingers - and given the Queensland talent coming through, such a chance may not come along again for some time.
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"To not take the team that played so well in Game II would have been a brave call," Fittler said.
"We picked a good squad, they enjoyed each other's company and they worked hard - at the end of the day, Cameron Munster was the difference. He was outstanding.
"But we were on their tryline at the end of the game, and it says a lot about the nature of the boys. It wasn't a great ending, but I can live with their effort."
For the second match in a row, Fittler went with four forwards on the bench.
It meant game time was hard to come by, with fiery forward Nathan Brown playing just 12 minutes.
It's been suggested Papenhuyzen could have come on as a middle forward, as he has in the past for Melbourne, but Fittler believes the weight of Maroons possession would have rendered the Melbourne fullback ineffective in that role.
"Up until five minutes to go they had 60 per cent of the ball, so Paps would have been defending (the whole time)," Fittler said.
"I can't imagine it would have been easy for him to go in and defend our line for 30 something play the balls in our twenty.
"Everyone can see why there's excitement around him. But to put him in at lock forward is hilarious, he would have been gassed, he would have been there for five minutes."
It might be a while before the Blues have another chance at three straight series wins - Queensland have blooded the likes of A.J Brimson, Xavier Coates, Harry Grant and Tino Fa'asuamaleuai and will welcome back Kalyn Ponga and David Fifita in 2021.
Other stars, like Josh Papalii and man of the series Cameron Munster, are still in their prime years.
Blaming the Blues halves for a New South Wales loss happens so regularly you could set your watch to it and Fittler rubbished suggestions Cleary was at fault for the Blues missing out on equalling their longest ever streak of series wins.
"I think you'd be a pretty tough judge to criticise last night's effort. I don't think that conversation should be had after last night," Fittler said.
"He's tough, he's getting there, he stayed in the game and kept punching right to the end.
"Teddy went down and he's a big part of what we do, and a lot had to be created. I thought he was pretty good.
"He's in New South Wales, he's very interesting and whether it's criticising or praising him I'm sure it attracts interest. He's learning to live with that."
The triumph of the so-called "worst Queensland team ever" could well give Origin a major shot in the arm, with the 2021 series is already shaping as a blockbuster.
Not only have Queensland birthed a new generation of stars, the Blues could welcome back skipper Boyd Cordner and South Sydney's Latrell Mitchell, as well as some star rookies of their own in Papenhuyzen and Brisbane's Kotoni Staggs.
Fittler said the Blues never underestimated the Maroons, but Blues may not have to bear the curse of such heavy favouritism for some time to come.
'The worst Queensland team ever' and all that talk, it never came from us or our camp," Fittler said.
"If you look individually at all their players they're all good players who were in good form."
Originally published as Freddy rejects 'hilarious' Papenhuyzen call