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COVID rules Wighton out of Blues, Cotter hamstrung for rest of series

Canberra star Jack Wighton is out of the second State of Origin game after being placed in COVID-19 isolation while the Maroons also have their own late hiccup with Reuben Cotter ruled out for a month after injuring his hamstring in the warm-up for the Cowboys’ game at Manly on Friday night.

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, a strong chance to replace Xavier Coates on the wing for the Maroons, failed his HIA after a head knock against the Sea Eagles so he is also in some doubt.

Cotter had scans on Friday night to assess the damage and he is now facing a month on the sidelines, which means he won’t being able to suit up for his second match with the Maroons in Perth and will miss the series finale at Suncorp Stadium.

Maroons mentor Billy Slater and Blues coach Brad Fittler are waiting until after this week’s Round 15 matches before naming their 22-man squads with Queensland one win away from a shock series win after their 16-10 upset at Accor Stadium in the series opener. The three-match series ends with the finale on Wednesday, July 13 in Brisbane.

Fittler already had several selection headaches but now will need to replace Wighton at left centre. The Raiders issued a statement on Friday night to say Wighton had been “ruled out of Sunday’s match against the Knights due to COVID protocols. Wighton will follow COVID return to play protocols once his isolation is completed next week.”

South Sydney’s Campbell Graham or Canterbury five-eighth Matt Burton could also be an option at centre although it is likely Stephen Crichton will be elevated from the interchange with Nicho Hynes or Api Koroisau becoming the bench utility.

The Blues fly to Perth on Monday morning. Latrell Mitchell (hamstring) and Ryan Papenhuyzen (knee) were close to making returns after lengthy layoffs, however Souths have ruled their fullback out until after the Representative Round and the Storm No.1 has tested positive to COVID-19 so he is also out of contention.

Broncos duo Payne Haas and Kotoni Staggs are likely to be available despite niggling shoulder problems. They have been named to play against the Storm in Round 15.

Isaah Yeo sat out Round 14 due to the head knock he suffered in Origin I but is expected to return to club duty this weekend against the Warriors.

Fittler could also make changes based on form, particularly in the pack with Tariq Sims, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Ryan Matterson potentially paying the price for the six-point loss in Sydney, with Manly’s Jake Trbojevic in line for a recall.

Daniel Tupou tackled in Origin

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Newcastle teammates Jacob Saifiti and Tyson Frizell were the unused forwards in the game-one squad so they could be a chance to get a start at Optus Stadium.

Manly forward Haumole Olakau’atu is likely to opt to play for Tonga instead of NSW if he gets a call-up during the representative round against New Zealand while Daniel Tupou has told Fittler he wants to remain with the Blues for now although he is likely to represent the Pacific Island nation at the World Cup.

Josh Addo-Carr has staked his claim for re-selection into the Blues after scoring a hat-trick for the Bulldogs against Parramatta on Monday. Addo-Carr was one of the big names overlooked for Origin I.

Fittler’s decision to start Cameron Murray and Junior Paulo on the bench in a late switch for Liam Martin and Campbell-Gillard also backfired. 

He admitted with Murray in particular that the move didn’t work as the team had better go-forward when he came on midway through the first half.

Slater is almost certain to need to pick a new lock after Cotter was a late withdrawal from the Cowboys’ Round 15 clash at Manly after suffering a hamstring problem in the warm-up. Rabbitohs forward Jai Arrow, who was 18th man in game one, would be the frontrunner to come onto the interchange with Patrick Carrigan promoted to lock.

“He felt it go in the warm-up and he’ll go for a scan tonight,” said Cowboys coach Todd Payten. “I think he’s bummed obviously with what’s happening this week and the missed opportunity for him.

“But I think he’ll go home, he’s got a newborn baby to look at and that’ll put things in perspective for him. I’m disappointed for the kid, he works so hard and he’s doing a terrific job, not just for us but for Queensland.

“I’m assuming (that he’s out of Origin). It’s going to be a fair stretch to get going in ten days. For a kid his size, he has to rely on speed and power that’ll hurt him with the hamstring.”

Slater will also need to find a new winger after Storm speedster Coates limped off in Origin I and has been ruled out for two months with a syndesmosis injury.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 08: Xavier Coates of the Maroons receives attention after sustaining an injury during game one of the 2022 State of Origin series between the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons at Accor Stadium on June 08, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Xavier Coates. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Cowboys duo Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Murray Taulagi are in contention to replace Coates as both players were members of the extended squad for game one.

Slater said straight after the game that the North Queensland duo were the obvious candidates for the spot, however there is momentum behind a recall for Brisbane veteran Corey Oates given his strong form at NRL level this season.

Warriors fullback Reece Walsh is a chance to get a call-up to the extended squad after just missing out in game one.

Possible NSW squad

1. James Tedesco
2. Daniel Tupou
3. Kotoni Staggs
4. Stephen Crichton
5. Brian To’o
6. Jarome Luai
7. Nathan Cleary
8. Payne Haas
9. Damien Cook
10. Junior Paulo
11. Cameron Murray
12. Liam Martin
13. Isaah Yeo

14. Nicho Hynes
15. Jake Trbojevic
16. Tariq Sims
17. Ryan Matterson
18. Api Koroisau

19. Reagan Campbell-Gillard
20. Jacob Saifiti
21. Tyson Frizell
22. Joseph Suaalii

Possible Queensland squad

1. Kalyn Ponga
2. Selwyn Cobbo
3. Valentine Holmes
4. Dane Gagai
5. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow
6. Cameron Munster
7. Daly Cherry-Evans
8. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui
9. Ben Hunt
10. Josh Papalii
11. Kurt Capewell
12. Felise Kaufusi
13. Patrick Carrigan

14. Harry Grant
15. Lindsay Collins
16. Jai Arrow
17. Jeremiah Nanai
18. Tom Flegler

19. Tom Dearden
20. Murray Taulagi
21. Moeaki Fotuaika
22. Reece Walsh

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