Blues lose third player for Origin III as Finucane earns promotion

Daniel Saifiti has become the third NSW player ruled out of next Wednesday’s final Origin game due to injury, with Melbourne’s Dale Finucane promoted to the interchange bench.

NSW coach Brad Fittler was conducting a Zoom call with media on Monday morning but stopped midway through to take a call from doctor Nathan Gibbs about Saifiti’s rib cartilage injury.

Daniel Saifiti is out of Origin III with a rib cartilage injury.Credit:Getty Images

After a few minutes, Fittler confirmed the Newcastle prop would join starting halves Nathan Cleary (shoulder) and Jarome Luai (knee) in the casualty ward.

“Daniel has a rib cartilage problem so he won’t play in game three,” Fittler said.

“There was a three-way discussion between Newcastle, Daniel and Nathan Gibbs. Rib cartilage is a very painful injury. If he was to play he would be under a major amount of duress. He wouldn’t be able to train that much, so he wouldn’t be good to anyone.

“He was of the feeling he was letting us down. But he needs to go away, get healthier and finish the season strongly for Newcastle.

“He is a huge loss. Since Perth a couple of years ago, he has been the head of our footy team. But it was great to see on the weekend both Junior Paulo and Payne Haas, who were outstanding. It is up to those boys now to step up and lead the way for us.”

Dale Finucance will be promoted to the Blues bench and play his fifth Origin game.Credit:Getty Images

Finucane will be promoted into the 17 as Fittler and his coaching staff decide on a 19th and 20th man to accompany Melbourne’s Nicho Hynes.

Fittler admitted he had been unsure how Finucane would feel about being a reserve for game two, but his attitude has been rewarded.

“I was really hesitant bringing Dale into the second game, and I wasn’t sure how he would be perceived as the 19th or 20th man,” Fittler said.

“But when I rang him he was stoked. And that’s the best sign as a coach, when players want to come down and be a part of it … it’s [now] paid him back.

“I always thought while he wore No.20 in our last game we were always going to be hard to beat – if he’s your 20th best player in your squad, or the 20th chosen, you’re a tough footy team. I’m so happy to be able to reward him for how he helped us in that last camp.”

The Blues will head into camp on the NSW Central Coast on Tuesday as Fittler and the Blues await a decision for the venue next Wednesday night. Stadium Australia is an outside chance if the Greater Sydney COVID numbers decline, otherwise Newcastle’s McDonald Jones Stadium will get the nod.

Fittler said if Newcastle was the destination, Saifiti would not have far to travel to cheer his mates.

NSW are looking to complete just the fourth series clean sweep in Origin history and the first since 2000.

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