NRL legend Cameron Smith: Brad Fittler has gone ‘crazy’

NRL legend Cameron Smith has called Brad Fittler “crazy” for reportedly overlooking Nathan Cleary’s Penrith sidekick Jarome Luai for the State of Origin series opener.

Speculation and rumours surrounding the Queensland and NSW teams will only be put to bed next week when the official teams are announced.

There is scope for up to 20 changes in the two teams following Queensland’s shock victory in the 2020 series.

Smith says Fittler’s biggest mistake will be not slotting Luai into the halves to partner Cleary — at the expense of Dally M medal Jack Wighton.

The Raiders star features as the selection wildcard for Fittler with speculation he could again move to the centres or even the bench.

Smith, however, says the key is giving Luai his Origin debut after his sizzling form in the Panthers’ undefeated run in 2021.

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“Cleary is going to be there and he is almost the first bloke picked for NSW,” Smith explained on SEN Radio Wednesday.

“Do you partner him with someone like Cody Walker or Jack Wighton? You go Luai for sure.

“I’m hearing that Brad Fittler is maybe leaning away from that, which is crazy. As a Queenslander I hope they don’t pick Luai.

“You throw Cleary and Luai as your No. 7 and No. 6 and (Api) Koroisau at No. 9 there is the majority of your spine.

Cameron Smith is Queensland until he dies.Source:Getty Images

“Then you have Isaah Yeo who complements those players so well. They are playing that well at the moment you should have multiple players from Penrith.”

It comes after former NSW coach Phil Gould said seven Panthers players should be picked for NSW in Game 1 on June 9 at the MCG. The rugby league guru said winger Brian To’o, centre Stephen Crichton and second-rower Liam Martin should also be picked.

Smith, meanwhile, predicts Fittler will stick with hooker Damien Cook, despite the form of Koroisau.

He said Cook has only one game to prove himself before Fittler would be forced to turn to the Panthers rake.

“It is a really tough one, but I still feel they are going to go with Cook for the first game and Api Koroisau maybe thereabouts for the next two,” he said.

“It is a seamless transition really so you probably go with the bloke that has done the job in Damien Cook and if he plays well he stays.

“If they don’t get the result they want and Damien is quiet then maybe you look at Api.”

It comes after Smith recently made the surprise admission Queensland should overlook Storm No. 9 Harry Grant for the season opener.

Origin foes Darren Lockyer and Brad Fittler.Source:Getty Images

Smith last week said Parramatta’s Reed Mahoney should start at No. 9 — forcing Grant onto the bench, despite his heroics in Queensland’s 2020 series win.

He said Grant’s injuries this season makes it impossible to be certain he would be able to handle 80 minutes of Origin action.

“Right now, given Harry has only played the five games – he didn’t play the start of the year with a knee injury, he’s now off the park with a hamstring injury – and Reed’s played every game this year and playing really well, you’d probably start with Reed.

“You’d start with Reed, he’s tough … he’s made 60-odd tackles plenty of times in his career, it’s going to take that in the Origin arena.

“He’s got great service from dummy-half, he’s got a pretty good running game and a kicking game as well.

“He’s got all the threats there, then you bring a Harry Grant onto the field just before halftime.

“He can come on, use his silky skills and his craft and try and tear apart the Blues.”

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