Westpac NSW Blues Latrell Mitchell addressed the team about his decision to stand down due to a calf injury before backing his replacement Stephen Crichton to do a job for his state in the opening game of the Ampol State of Origin series tomorrow night.
Mitchell sustained the injury in the final minutes of a training session at Accor Stadium on Sunday night and was sent for scans which later revealed a grade one calf strain.
NSW coach Brad Fittler said yesterday he left the decision up to Mitchell to determine if he could play before the star Blues centre made the selfless decision to sit it out.
“It was all going to be based on how he felt and he felt that given Stephen has been here all week - he knows what Stephen can provide - he made the selfless decision that he wasn’t going to be right,” Fittler said.
“The decision was his, I was going to leave the decision up to him. He got up in front of the group and explained the situation and just to give some confidence to ‘Critta’ too.”
Crichton made his debut for NSW last season and played in all three games, including the 44-12 win in Game Two in Perth where he put Angus Crichton over for a try.
He said Mitchell was emotional when he addressed the team and while the events that forced his withdrawal were “sad” he was determined to make the most of the opportunity before him.
He also acknowledged it had been a fortuitous journey for him to the sky blue jersey after South Sydney Rabbitohs centre Campbell Graham was originally named as 18th man before having to withdraw with a sternum problem.
“I’m just grateful for the opportunity that I have now, and I want to make the state proud,” Crichton said.
“I’ve obviously had the experience as well, it’s going to be a totally different game this year but I’ll be very keen for it.”
Fittler said he had been impressed by Crichton’s attitude in camp and was confident he would be ready to make an impact on Wednesday night.
“I asked him before training yesterday, ‘How are you?’ and he said, “I’m ready to play, I’ve been ready to play since I got here’,” Fittler said.
“He’s one of those blokes who everyday comes in, 18th man, and brings energy, trains hard and he’s great to have in the team.”