Sydney Roosters forward Boyd Cordner will make his State of Origin debut in Wednesday’s decider, with NSW coach Laurie Daley revamping his bench following skipper Paul Gallen’s withdrawal on Friday.
And Daley is also considering making a further change by switching Greg Bird to five-eighth and putting James Maloney on the bench to shield him from the early Maroons onslaught. An emotional Gallen stepped aside from Origin III after hobbling through a fitness test at Coogee Oval. The NSW captain has been plagued by a foot injury since game two and failed to prove his fitness. After being restricted to a moon boot since the last Origin, Gallen finally ditched the protective aid and had a light training run on Thursday before trying to stride out a day later.
He will be replaced by Aaron Woods while Robbie Farah will take over as skipper. But Daley made another change late on Friday, dropping Josh Reynolds from his interchange bench. Reynolds will now play for the Bulldogs on Sunday against Melbourne, before rejoining the Blues squad as 18th man.
”It was quite easy if Gal and Birdy were there – what everyone’s roles were going to be,” Daley said. ”Now this [Gallen’s withdrawal] changes it somewhat.”
After watching on for the entire 80 minutes in Origin I, Reynolds played only 14 minutes in Brisbane. With Farah now captain, the Wests Tigers rake is expected to play 80 minutes, meaning Reynolds’ inclusion would have been less demanding. Greg Bird could fill in in the halves if Mitchell Pearce or James Maloney get hurt, while Luke Lewis can play in the outside backs. Bird, who is the Blues’ most capped player following the withdrawal of Gallen and Jarryd Hayne, ran again on Friday and is almost a guaranteed starter after he battled an ankle injury. ”He is another one that we have to closely monitor,” Daley said. ”He ran well [on Thursday] at training. We are hoping he’ll pull up well on Saturday and we’ll give him another run on Sunday and if he is all right on Sunday then he should be good to go.”
Gallen huddled around his teammates on Friday morning to tell them of his withdrawal.
They rallied around him and congratulated Woods on earning his second cap. Daley praised Gallen for putting personal ambition aside for the team. ”He is a big, tough guy but this means so much to him,” Daley said. ”He has probably dreamt about it for 12 months and to have it taken away when you want it so bad is devastating. I just said bad luck and told him I want him to be around camp as much as possible. I told him to stay positive and he’ll be involved in our preparations. He’ll help out and be part of the coaching staff and he’ll be there as if he was playing.”
Meanwhile, Farah said Gallen remained the team’s leader. ”I’d much rather have Gal out there,” Farah said earlier this week. ”He is an inspiration to all of us. I’ll take on the reins for a night. If I have to stand in for one night I’ll do that but that’s only a temporary thing for that night. I see myself as a leader in this team regardless if I have the captaincy or vice-captaincy. I’ve been here for a couple of years now and been a club captain at the Tigers for five years. I feel like a senior player here.”
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The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.