NSW fullback James Tedesco will head into the State of Origin decider without a game under his belt for three weeks, after being ruled out of the Wests Tigers’ clash with Newcastle on Sunday.
Tedesco hasn’t played since the Blues’ 18-16 loss in Origin II at ANZ Stadium, where he suffered an ankle injury while celebrating a Mitchell Pearce try.
Tigers coach Ivan Cleary confirmed on Saturday Tedesco’s lateral ligament tear would again force him out of the Knights clash this weekend, after he skipped the team’s loss to Gold Coast last Friday.
But he said he didn’t anticipate the injury would cause him any issues in next Wednesday’s Origin clash at Suncorp Stadium
“James won’t play — he hasn’t come through from the ankle injury,” Cleary said.
“It’s not long-term, he should be fine (for Origin).”
Winger Kevin Naiqama will against shift to fullback against his former club, as both struggling teams desperately try and avoid being locked in last place on the ladder.
“Kevvie has now had a couple of weeks in the role and has learnt a bit each time,” Cleary said.
“He’s certainly familiar with the ground up there in Newcastle having been up there for a few years.”
News of Tedesco’s withdrawal was well received in Newcastle – who enter a game as favourites for the first time since September 2015.
Returning back rower Jamie Buhrer admitted stopping the dangerous Tigers No.1 had been a key part of their game plan.
He also joked he would like to see Tedesco rested to be fresh for Origin III, before being informed of his confirmed absence for the Tigers.
“As a New South Welshman I’m very happy, and as a Newcastle Knight I’m very happy as well,” Buhrer said.
“He’s a great player and one less worry.”
STATS THAT MATTER
* Newcastle are favourites for the first time since round 26, 2015.
* The two sides have won just five of 29 games between them this year.
* Former NSW halfback Trent Hodkinson is expected to earn a recall for Newcastle, after spending two months in reserve grade.