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Cronulla coach Craig Fitzgibbon makes Origin plea for Sharks centre

By AAP
(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Cronulla coach Craig Fitzgibbon has thrown his weight behind a maiden NSW State of Origin call-up for powerhouse Sharks centre Siosifa Talakai.

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Talakai was part of the Sharks side which moved into fourth spot on the ladder with a 18-10 win over the Gold Coast Titans on Saturday.

Ahead of a pause in the NRL before the representative round and Origin II in Perth on Sunday week, Talakai may find his way into NSW coach Brad Fittler’s plans.

Talakai has already been named in the Tonga squad for their Test against New Zealand but Fitzgibbon said the versatile 25-year-old wouldn’t look out of place in the Blues line-up.

“He’s ready for anything,” Fitzgibbon said.

“Most of his training this pre-season was in the back row, he’s taken an opportunity … He really values the fact that he’s a centre at the moment.

“But what he values more than anything is his role in doing the hard stuff, every week he’s just rolling the sleeves up, so he’s ready for anything.”

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Fittler is going to be forced into changes as the Blues battle to keep the series alive after losing Origin I in Sydney.

Canberra five-eighth Jack Wighton has been ruled out with Covid-19, opening the door for Penrith’s Stephen Crichton to move into the centres after making his debut off the bench in Origin I.

The Blues lost the ruck battle in the series opener and Fittler may be tempted to bring Penrith rake Api Koroisau onto the bench to support Damien Cook.

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Another Cronulla man, Cameron McInnes could cover hooker and offer value as a utility forward, while versatile Sharks halfback Nicho Hynes provides options across the backline.

“Nicho has been around the camp and he knows what they’re trying to do,” said Sharks skipper Wade Graham. “He’s got to be pretty close in the discussions right now.

“Cam, he’s just suited for that arena, Cam is just a nutcase. He’s ready to go every minute of the day, so if he had one of those jerseys he wouldn’t let anyone down.”

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