NSW's preparations for State of Origin I have been dealt a huge blow with Latrell Mitchell ruled out of the series opener against Queensland.
The Blues confirmed on Monday morning prior to their flight to Adelaide that a calf injury would prevent the South Sydney superstar from featuring for Brad Fittler's side.
Mitchell's injury is not thought to be a long-term issue -- Game II is in Brisbane on June 21 -- but the Blues were concerned about carrying him into Wednesday night's opener at Adelaide Oval if he was underdone.
The 25-year-old missed all of last year's series with a hamstring issue and former NSW playmaker Matthew Johns said Mitchell's loss would be felt in more ways than one.
"It's the intimidation factor, it's a bit like being a boxer and stepping into the ring with Mike Tyson," Johns told SEN.
"Latrell has so much intimidation and presence and you lose a lot of that."
Penrith's Stephen Crichton will move into Mitchell's vacant centre spot, with Canterbury five-eighth Matt Burton rushed into camp to act as 19th man.
Hearing the news after their last session on the Gold Coast before travelling to Adelaide, Queensland hooker Ben Hunt conceded it would rid the Blues of some "star power" but that Crichton posed his own challenges.
"He (Crichton) has played Origin footy before, won a couple of grand finals, knows what it's all about," Hunt said.
"I don't think it's much of a step down at all."