The NSW took a major blow ahead of the second State of Origin, with center Jack Wighton expected to be dropped from his mandatory COVID-19 showdown.
- New South Wales center Jack Wighton has tested positive for COVID and will miss State of Origin II
- The Blues are expected to turn to Canterbury’s Matt Burton or Penrith’s Stephen Crichton to start left center
- Queensland could be forced to relocate on its own after Cowboys lockout Reuben Cotter suffered a hamstring injury
The Canberra ace will miss the Raiders’ clash with Newcastle on Sunday after contracting the virus, which forces him to spend seven days in isolation.
“Jack Wighton, fifth-eighth for the Raiders, has been ruled out of Sunday’s match against the Knights due to COVID protocols,” the club announced on Friday.
“Wighton will follow COVID return protocols to play once his isolation is complete next week.”
Coach Brad Fittler is set to name his Blues lineup on Sunday, with NSW needing victory in Perth next Sunday after Queensland won the series opener in Sydney.
Wighton was a certainty as the standout in their shocking 16-10 loss.
They are due to depart Sydney for Perth on Monday to begin preparations and Wighton could join the team later in the week, however it would be a huge gamble if he was willing to play Origin.
Wighton was transferred from his usual five-eighth role to the centers to cover the loss of injured stars Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trbojevic.
Mitchell has recovered from his hamstring injury but has yet to play an NRL game.
The door is open for Penrith’s Stephen Crichton, who left the bank in Sydney to start at centre-left, replacing Wighton, with Canterbury’s Matt Burton, South Sydney’s Campbell Graham and Cronulla’s Siosifa Talakai also in the dispute.
Burton’s existing combination with blues duo Jarome Luai and Brian To’o, with whom he won the Panthers’ first division last year, could be an advantage in his favor.
Queensland could be forced into a move on their own after the Cowboys’ blocker Reuben Cotter suffered a late injury in his team’s win over Manly due to a hamstring strain.
Cotter has fallen out of the warm-up and is in doubt for Origin II with Jai Arrow and Patrick Carrigan the contenders to replace the robust North Queenslander in the starting lineup.
Arrow, 18th man in Sydney, could be a direct replacement for Cotter, who impressed on his Origin debut by playing the full 80 minutes, making 51 tackles and running 134 meters.
If Carrigan has moved to number 13, Brisbane’s Tom Flegler could be his substitute on the bench for his second Origin appearance after debuting in last year’s dead rubber.