EXCLUSIVE: Blues, Fittler must be ready for Queensland ‘ambush’, says Phil Gould
By Marc Churches
Iconic former NSW Origin coach Phil Gould has sent a “warning” to Blues coach Brad Fittler and the playing group to be prepared for an entirely new ball-game now that Wayne Bennett is the man in charge of Queensland.
Despite heading into the November Origin series as clear underdogs, Bennett’s side will be full of confidence knowing the supercoach, who led the Maroons to five series victories across seven campaigns, is the new man in charge after taking over from Kevin Walters.
With a host of stars including Newcastle fullback Kalyn Ponga all unavailable for selection, Bennett has named 11 rookies in the 16-player squad that has so far been named.
Wests Tigers loan sensation Harry Grant and Titans young guns AJ Brimson, Moeaki Fotuaika and Phillip Sami have all been included to freshen up a side coming of two straight series losses.
Gould warned New South Wales that a Queensland “ambush” could be on the cards with the Maroons not afraid to compete with their backs against the wall under the legendary coach.
“You underestimate this at your peril, and I don’t think anyone will underestimate it, but it’s impossible to overestimate the effect he (Bennett) will have,” Gould told Wide World of Sports’ Six Tackles with Gus podcast.
"I have no doubt this has totally changed the dynamic of what we’re about to witness in November when the series begins.
"I put out the warning straight away and I can see by the players and types of player he’s putting in his squad – this is an ambush waiting to happen.
"I can see what he’s bringing to the table.
“This is totally different now that Wayne Bennett is coaching Queensland.”
Gould also touched on some of the injuries to the Blues and revealed he’s confident NSW skipper Boyd Corder and potential debutant Luke Keary will be available for the series.
But after both stars struggled with injuries throughout the season, the former six-time winning Origin coach said New South Wales would need to win the opening two matches of the series in Adelaide and Sydney, with fears a Game Three decider in Brisbane could be too much for the squad.
“Luke Keary and Boyd Corder have had their issues with injuries and the concussion protocol. Their wellness will be taken into account,” Gould said.
"I’m not sure how the NSW coaches are going to handle this as to whether they look at it as a three-game series.
"My advice would be they try to get the series over quickly.
"I don’t think I would like to go to Brisbane in Game Three against a Wayne Bennett coached-side for a decider.
“If they can win the game in Adelaide and complete the series in Sydney, that’s the best way to go.”
Despite believing that Blues skipper Cordner will be ready to lead the team when the series kicks off, Gould said he wouldn’t be surprised if he was forced to rest and play on limited minutes.
“Boyd Cordner, I think now that he can get a break, he can get a month off leading into that first game, I don’t think there’s any doubt he will be captain and play Game One, and then will have to be monitored from then on,” he said.
"New South Wales won’t be doing anything to the detriment of the player.
"He will be well looked after. I think a month off will do him the world of good.
"I think Boyd will know too, whether he’s up for this Origin encounter. He’s very proud about being New South Wales captain.
"I would expect him to line-up in Game One and do his best and then see how they go from there.
"Depending on that result, if they happen to win that game – I think if he starts the series as captain, I don’t think they’re going to want to change the captaincy and the leadership throughout the series.
“They might manage his game time a little bit. But if Boyd stands up, he will be in the side.”