Players have even more incentive to finish the NRL season on a high note after Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler said he wants to name an extended squad for the State of Origin series.
The dates have been officially announced for Origin with the series to be staged over a blockbuster 14 days after the NRL Grand Final on October 25. Game One will be held on November 4, Game Two on November 11 and Game Three on November 18 with a decision on venues and crowds to be announced down the track.
Fittler has already said players from teams who go deep into the NRL Finals Series will put in a strong case for selection and he told nswrl.com.au that he wants to carry additional players in his team to cover for any hiccups including injuries, suspension or form.
Traditionally, Fittler has only named 17 players plus an emergency when Origin has been played mid-season but he expects the squad to be larger as they will be in camp for three weeks – similar to the extended squads the Australian Kangaroos have named for end of season Test matches.
This could see Fittler name back-up players in key positions, while players who are versatile and can fill dual positions would also be valuable.
“Once you’ve got your squad everyone else will be on holidays,” Fittler said.
“Players aren’t going to be waiting at home in case there’s injuries so once you’ve got your squad that will be it.
“I’m sure there will be a discussion around that and there’s got to be a few discussions around a lot of things but the size of the squad is going to be one of the real, big talking points.”
Fittler also said it would be advantageous to have the players together for three consecutive games as he would not have to worry about them returning to the NRL and running the risk of injury or suspension.
“What you lose in your 10-day preparations you gain in having them the entire time,” Fittler said.
“Normally it’s pretty tricky doing reviews and all that type of stuff because they go straight back to their club the next day.
“You’ve got to sit down and sweat on players not picking up injuries at their club so you’ll have a lot more information and there won’t be as much uncertainty as there normally is around Origin.”