Jack Wighton to start at centre for Blues

Brad Fittler has sprung another selection surprise, with Jack Wighton to start at centre in State of Origin I and Stephen Crichton coming off the bench.

Fittler confirmed his 17 on Monday morning, with Wighton a shock selection at left centre after it was initially expected the Canberra five-eighth would only be a reserve.

Wighton himself admitted his surprise at the news, only told of his centre shift by reporters before going to confirm the situation personally with Fittler.

The move means Nicho Hynes will only stay on as 18th man rather than as a bench utility, while Liam Martin is also on interchange with Tyson Frizell missing out.

"The big thing with Jack is he has played in that position for us a few times and done a good job," Fittler said.


"His last two games (on coming back from suspension) he has looked fast and fresh and broke the line a lot.

"His kicking game has been impressive. Having that style of play with his focus ... That was a huge part of the decision."

Wighton last played centre in NSW's last series loss in 2020, and came off the bench in the first two games last year before starting at No.6 in the dead rubber.

He was initially considered an outsider for the centre role, but will now have Daniel Tupou outside him on the left with Kotoni Staggs and Brian To'o beside each other on the right.

"The experience (was key)," Fittler said.

"I was mindful of not putting inexperienced people together. I think that is really important.

"Given the kicking game we have seen from Cherry-Evans and Munster.

"That has been a big part of our game. I think that is sometimes where experience under conditions can help."

Meanwhile Martin's debut means there will be six Penrith players in the side, the most of any club in a NSW team since St George Illawarra in 2011.

He will be joined on the bench by Crichton, Ryan Matterson and Reagan Campbell-Gillard, with the latter playing his first Origin since his debut in 2018.

Frizell, Jacob Saifiti, Joseph Suaalii and Apisai Koroisau will all be released back to play for NRL clubs this weekend, after acting as the reserves in Fittler's initial 22-man squad.

New South Wales: James Tedesco (capt), Brian To'o, Kotoni Staggs, Jack Wighton, Daniel Tupou, Jarome Luai, Nathan Cleary, Payne Haas, Damien Cook, Junior Paulo, Cameron Murray, Tariq Sims, Isaah Yeo. Bench: Stephen Crichton, Liam Martin, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Ryan Matterson. 18th: Nicho Hynes.