Hope at State of Origin Ryan Matterson knows better than anyone why coach Brad Fitler is just putting his choices on the pencil.
Three years after he was due to make his New Wales debut, all-rounder Eels is on the verge of earning a selection to open the series when the Blues are looking for new talent to cover a list of injuries that seems to be growing every week.
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Star centers Tom Trbaevich and Latrel Mitchell have dropped out, as well as reliable midfielder Dale Finucaine. Hopefully Victor Ridley and Ryan Papenhaisen have also stayed away, while Cam Murray is keen to be in shape.
This opens the door for someone like Matterson to step aside in the first game in Sydney on June 8th.
“You have to be able to cover (injuries, HIA and boxes for sin) so it will definitely benefit him,” Fitler said after seeing Matterson revolt in Parramatta’s exciting victory over Manley.
“At the moment there’s a little puzzle, so we just sit back and hold on with a pencil.”
Matterson said he had not spoken to Fitler about the selection, but he recalled one of his last conversations in 2019 when he was told he would be promoted from 18th to starting lineup in the second game of the series in Perth.
“There was one game when Freddie actually hit me on the shoulder on game day because Tyson Friezel injured his neck,” Matterson said at the CommBank Stadium barn.
“He says, ‘Matto, you’re playing,’ and I remember calling Mom and Dad and saying, ‘Maybe I’m playing.’ It was in Perth, so they thought about whether to fly, but I told them they wouldn’t fly there.
“I warmed up thinking I was playing, but then Friesell did an amazing job typing his neck. He ended up on the field and he was absolutely blind. ”
Several tense hours caused a number of problems, including the inability to find Asics boots in a city where everything is about the AFL.
“I was stressed out because I needed boots,” he said.
“I also rolled my ankle the day before, so all day I was just getting physiotherapy on my ankle because I thought I was playing. I was going to do whatever it took because obviously in the Origin arena you are lifted by adrenaline and you want to play.
“It was good to be around, but what can you do?
“I haven’t talked to Freddie and I don’t think I can do that. I’m just playing my best football here for Parramata.
“It depends on Freddie and what he wants to choose. I think it’s every child’s dream to wear blues, so I’d be happy to be called. “
At the end of the year, Matterson terminates the contract, but the important thing may not be far off if he maintains this form.
He has agreed on contracts in the hands of his manager, and his decision to focus solely on improving his game forces him to prepare for top awards.
“I think I felt ready for a while (for Origin),” Matterson said.
“Opportunities arise, and obviously Freddie chooses his top 17. NSW has done well in all series, and if the side doesn’t lose, you can’t change that. Sometimes you just have to wait for the time and think about club football first. ”