Fittler confirms dumped Roberts still in NSW Origin contention

Brad Fittler has left the door open for James Roberts to be picked for State of Origin I despite being axed to reserve grade.

Roberts has dropped to fourth centre option at Brisbane after failing to earn an NRL recall this week despite a knee injury to Jack Bird.

Bird was considered the frontrunner to replace his out-of-form teammate for game one, only to be ruled for the season.

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However Fittler may have no choice but to stick with Roberts, who will only have one more week to press his claims before Origin teams are named next week.

Visa issues have prevented the 26-year-old from playing with Wynnum-Manly in their away trip to Papua New Guinea this week.

Fittler said picking a reserve grader had been done before.

“I’m pretty sure there was a hooker from Manly, Ray Brown, they picked out of reserve grade,” Fittler said at the Origin launch on Wednesday.

“He used to win a lot back then, so I’m gathering he went all right. (NSW) had a pretty strong team and they were pretty loyal back then with the team.”

Brisbane Broncos player James Roberts is still in the Blues race.Source:AAP


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Fittler admitted being worried about the challenge of defending what shapes as a lethal Queensland left edge.

“That’s so important, that position on the right there,” he said of Roberts’ spot.

“Their left side is so brutal when you’ve got Cam Munster and possibly Kalyn Ponga and these fellas coming down that side.

“That’s without doubt the toughest part of my job, getting that right.

“So we’re going to give right up until next Sunday to see who we’ll pick and James Roberts is still in contention.”

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Fittler revealed Blake Ferguson as a candidate to replace Tom Trbojevic, who is unlikely to make it back in time as he recovers from a hamstring injury.

Ferguson hasn’t played for NSW since his infamous pub visit before the 2017 decider, and controversially opted not to attend a Blues camp in the summer.

“Blake’s a part of the discussions,” Fittler said.

“I spoke to Blake in the off-season. I also spoke to him about a month or so ago. I get to see him week in, week out, I watched him last week out at Parramatta.

“(It was) disappointing what happened up in Magic Round (The Eels loss 64-10 to Melbourne), but once again, ten days (left) and he’s on that right side that’s so important to us.”

Originally published as Fittler confirms dumped Roberts still in NSW Origin contention

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