NSW have been dealt a massive blow ahead of the second State of Origin with barnstorming center Jack Wighton set to be ruled out of their must-win clash with COVID-19.
- New South Wales center Jack Wighton has tested positive to 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 at left centre.
- Queensland could be forced into a change of their own after Cowboys lock Reuben Cotter suffered a hamstring injury
The Canberra playmaker will miss the Raiders’ clash with Newcastle on Sunday after contracting the virus, which requires him to spend seven days in isolation.
“Raiders five-eighth Jack Wighton has been ruled out of Sunday’s match against the Knights due to COVID protocols,” the club announced late on Friday.
“Wighton will follow COVID return to play protocols once his isolation is completed next week.”
Coach Brad Fittler is set to name his Blues line-up on Sunday with NSW needing victory in Perth next Sunday after Queensland won the series opener in Sydney.
Wighton was a certainty as the stand-out in their shock 16-10 loss.
They are set to depart Sydney for Perth on Monday to begin preparations and Wighton could possibly join the squad late in the week, however, it would be a massive gamble if he would be up to playing Origin.
Wighton was shifted from his usual five-eighth role into the centers to cover the loss of injured stars Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trbojevic.
Mitchell has recovered from his hamstring injury but is yet to play an NRL game.
The door is open for Penrith’s Stephen Crichton, who came off the bench in Sydney, to start at left center in relief of Wighton with Canterbury’s Matt Burton, South Sydney’s Campbell Graham and Cronulla’s Siosifa Talakai also in contention.
Burton’s existing combination with Blues duo Jarome Luai and Brian To’o, with whom he won a premiership at the Panthers last year, could be an edge in his favour.
Queensland could be forced into a change of their own after Cowboys lock Reuben Cotter was a late scratching from his side’s win over Manly due to a hamstring strain.
Cotter went down in the warm-up and is in doubt for Origin II with Jai Arrow and Patrick Carrigan the candidates to replace the rugged North Queenslander in the starting line-up.
Arrow, 18th man in Sydney, could be a straight replacement for Cotter, who impressed in his Origin debut as he played all 80 minutes, made 51 tackles and ran for 134 metres.
If Carrigan was moved to the 13 jersey, Brisbane’s Tom Flegler could be his replacement on the bench for his second Origin appearance after he debuted in last year’s dead rubber.