NSW Blues pick Api Koroisau, Hudson Young, Nicho Hynes; Brad Fittler considered Jack de Belin recall
According to sources speaking on the condition of anonymity, NSW medical staff discreetly asked for an update on de Belin after he starred in the Dragons’ last-gasp win over the Roosters on Friday night.
Blues officials were told de Belin had no fitness issues and would be available if selected.
St George Illawarra Dragons forward Jack de Belin and NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler.Credit: Getty
Any potential call-up for de Belin would have needed to be ratified by the NSW Rugby League board.
Despite openly speaking about his ambition to return to the Blues fold, it was thought 32-year-old de Belin would never feature in a NSW jersey again.
But in the strongest sign he could feature later in the series, Fittler spent most of Sunday contemplating whether he needed to add more starch to his pack with one of the NRL’s best defensive forwards.
In an interview with his masthead earlier this year, de Belin said: “It would be a good story to get back there, don’t worry about that. I felt like the rep jerseys were taken away from me prematurely, and I never got the chance to be a year-in, year-out rep player.
Tom Trbojevic was back to his best for Manly in the nation’s capital.Credit: Getty
“I know what I can produce and what I’m capable of.”
Instead, Fittler has opted for a vastly experienced NSW side with Koroisau getting the nod over Cook the most notable surprise.
The Tigers hooker won two premierships with Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai and Isaah Yeo before switching to the joint venture, and it was enough to convince Fittler to have him start game one in Adelaide on May 31.
Dally M Medal winner Hynes is in line to make his Blues debut as a bench utility having been 18th man for NSW last year.
Nicho Hynes makes a break against the Knights on Saturday.Credit: Getty
It’s a fitting reward for the Sharks star, who has mounted an irresistible case for inclusion after leading Craig Fitzgibbon’s team to a share of the competition lead after 12 rounds.
Young has also been rewarded for his stellar start to the year and made the dash from Canberra to meet his Blues teammates in Sydney on Sunday night.
Panthers star Luai will hold the five-eighth jersey despite pressure from Hynes, having breathed a huge sigh of relief when he was only fined for making contact with touch judge Chris Sutton in Penrith’s win over the Broncos.
Off-contract back-rower Frizell has been in terrific form for the Knights, and is seen as a dependable forward who can spend time on both an edge and in the middle.
South Sydney’s Campbell Graham and the Wests Tigers’ Stefano Utoikamanu are expected to be part of the extended squad as the 18th and 19th players.
The Blues team will be officially announced on Monday.
Likely NSW team: 1 James Tedesco, 2 Josh Addo-Carr, 3 Latrell Mitchell, 4 Tom Trbojevic, 5 Brian To’o, 6 Jarome Luai, 7 Nathan Cleary, 8 Tevita Pangai jnr, 9 Api Koroisau, 10 Payne Haas, 11 Liam Martin, 12 Cameron Murray, 13 Isaah Yeo. Interchange: 14 Nicho Hynes, 15 Junior Paulo, 16 Tyson Frizell, 17 Hudson Young, 18 Campbell Graham, 19 Stefano Utoikamanu.
Stream the NRL Premiership 2023 live and free on 9Now.
Sports news, results and expert commentary. Sign up for our Sport newsletter.