Wallace and Fitzgibbon look to spark NSW - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Wallace and Fitzgibbon look to spark NSW

By Todd Balym 13/05/2008 07:13:31 PM Comments (0)

NSW have placed their faith in a cool-headed rookie halfback and bald-headed veteran backrower for next week's opening State of Origin clash with Queensland at ANZ Stadium.

Brisbane 22-year-old Peter Wallace won a NSW debut on Tuesday after Newcastle utility Kurt Gidley was ruled out with a fractured cheekbone and Sydney Roosters 30-year-old Craig Fitzgibbon earned a recall after two years in the representative wilderness.

Queensland produced their own selection shock with former Test fullback Karmichael Hunt named five-eighth ahead of the Gold Coast's form halfback Scott Prince.

Desperately seeking Origin revenge after successive Queensland series wins, the Blues have thrown the dice with nine team changes from last year's game-three winning outfit.

They had planned to build the side around the multi-talented Gidley, but those hopes were scuttled when Melbourne and Blues prop Brett White injured the Novocastrian in Monday night's NRL match.

Skipper Danny Buderus said Test utility Gidley would have filled "about seven" roles in the Blues side this year, but instead NSW will put full faith in the unflappable Wallace, who has just 29 NRL games under his belt.

"We think (Wallace's) style of play will suit the style that we want to play," said new coach Craig Bellamy.

"He just looks so cool and calm most of the time. I think we need a cool head in Origin.

"When you watch him play footy he seems to have time to do things that he wants to do and that's a pretty good trait when you're going to be playing Origin football."

And if Wallace's ice-cool demeanour in front a throng of media is any indication, then the former Penrith halfback is built for the Origin arena.

"I'm over the moon to be picked," was as excited as the young red-head got in his media conference.

"It's a dream come true. (I will) just enjoy the week and look forward to the game and not put too much pressure on myself."

NSW chairman of selectors Bob McCarthy said Wallace was a pick for the future, ahead of Brett Finch, Matt Orford, Jarrod Mullen, Todd Carney and Mitchell Pearce.

"He has got an old head on a young body," he said.

The other surprise was NSW's selection of Fitzgibbon, who thought his Blues career was over, ahead of Manly's Test prop Brent Kite.

Bellamy named four rookies - Anthony Laffranchi, Ben Cross, Anthony Quinn and Wallace - while overlooking former Kangaroos Jamie Lyon, Nathan Hindmarsh, Steve Simpson, Andrew Ryan, Luke Bailey and Brett Kimmorley, who all played in Origin III last year.

Fitzgibbon could be seen as NSW's lucky charm, the workaholic backrower having never played in a losing series (2003-2005) but missing from the previous two losses.

His age-defying form at the Roosters has not only won him a NSW recall, but "throws a bit of a spanner in the works" to plans he may have had to retire at the end of the year.

"I'm a pretty unemotional dude. The closest I was ever going to get to crying was probably today," said Fitzgibbon.

Queensland chairman of selectors Des Morris defended the snubbing of Prince, saying they felt playing him alongside another halfback in Johnathan Thurston would compromise the Maroons' stunning attack.

"Scott's a halfback in our opinion and unfortunately he's competing against Johnathan Thurston, who has got the edge on him at the moment," said Morris.

"It would be very difficult for the team if we had Scott and Johnathan both trying to run the game."

But even Hunt conceded taking the step from fullback at the Broncos to five-eighth would be huge.

Injured skipper Darren Lockyer took almost a year to convert from fullback great to outstanding five-eighth.

Hunt has just eight days.

"I've never played five-eighth at NRL level, let alone making my first appearance at State of Origin level," said Hunt.

"It's going to be a big step up but one I'm confident I can do."

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