Willie Mason to 'bounce back' for Blues - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Willie Mason to 'bounce back' for Blues

By Todd Balym 24/06/2008 07:49:21 PM Comments (0)

NSW coach Craig Bellamy wants Willie Mason to walk the talk after pushing the outspoken forward to the front of his pack for next week's Origin decider at ANZ Stadium.

The Blues forwards were mauled by Queensland in the 30-0 flogging in Origin II, but rather than swing the axe NSW selectors have instilled faith by making just one personnel change to the pack with prop Ben Cross to replace Newcastle teammate Steve Simpson on the bench.

The Blues will have the same starting pack as Origin II, although Mason has been named at prop with veteran Craig Fitzgibbon reverting to his natural role in the back row.

It is a significant shift for Mason, who was accused of going missing in Origin II by past greats and whose position in rep teams has come under question.

Bellamy agreed the move from running on the edges to the hard yards up the middle was a challenge for Mason to prove his real value to the Blues.

"I don't know if he owes anything, but I'm sure he is keen to play well," said Bellamy.

"I don't think his game in the second game was certainly anywhere near his best. But he wasn't Robinson Crusoe either."

Even Mason's club coach, Sydney Roosters boss Brad Fittler, believes the 28-year-old Test star needs to lift his game in the Origin arena.

"He copped a fair bit of criticism after the second game and it's a big challenge for him," said Fittler.

"He wasn't that good for us on the weekend so he's going through a stage where he knows he has to bounce back and he normally bounces back pretty well."

Mason was the only forward to carry the ball more than 100m in Origin II, but missed four tackles and had two crucial handling errors which Fittler says has been creeping into his game lately with three against Newcastle last weekend.

"My mum told him to go and get some glue," said Fittler.

"He has to work out he is a good player and is expected to catch them."

The Blues made just four other changes from Origin II, although at closer examination no-one was effectively dropped.

Halves Greg Bird (knee) and Peter Wallace (groin) and centre Mark Gasnier (back) were considered too risky to gamble on their fitness while winger Steve Turner and forward Simpson both made way for Origin I players that missed the last clash due to suspension or injury.

Roosters pair Braith Anasta and rookie Mitchell Pearce were called into the halves, Canberra's Joel Monaghan handed his Origin debut in the centres and Jarryd Hayne re-instated on the wing.

"Those guys did a great job in Origin I and I don't think there was any need for too much panic," explained Bellamy.

While 19-year-old Pearce has a daunting task on debut, so too does 26-year-old Monaghan who must bring down Origin II man of the match Greg Inglis.

"Obviously he is a special talent but hopefully I can get out there and do a job on him," said Monaghan.

"Being man of the match he's done something right but we will forget about game two and worry about only game three now."

Bellamy says he won't focus too much on nullifying Inglis as the only way to improve their Origin II efforts against him is to defend better.

Origin II opponents Gasnier and Turner missed four tackles each that night and the Blues will thrust a new-look pairing - Monaghan and Hayne - against the matchwinner.

"I don't know how you change your tactics when you've got to tackle someone, you just tackle them," said Bellamy.

"We missed a couple tackles and our defensive patterns at one stage we didn't do what we practiced to do and he got some space on the outside.

"I'm not concerned about Greg this week, I'm concerned about NSW players."

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