Freddie hit by Origin II front-row crisis
NSW's dwindling front-row stocks have suddenly become a huge headache for Blues coach Brad Fittler.
Incumbent prop David Klemmer has been ruled out for four to six weeks with a fractured wrist and the men in line to replace him - including Brisbane's Matt Lodge, Penrith's Reagan Campbell-Gillard and North Queensland's Jordan McLean - are falling like ninepins.
Lodge was placed on report on Sunday for a high tackle on Gold Coast's Keegan Hipgrave during Brisbane's shock loss to the Titans at Suncorp Stadium.
He faces a possible sanction on Monday when the NRL match review committee meets to determine whether he should be charged.
McLean was helped from the field with a severe hamstring injury on Saturday night during North Queensland's loss to Manly in Townsville.
And Campbell-Gillard, who was named to start for Penrith against the Sydney Roosters on Sunday, was demoted to the interchange bench before kick-off.
Other front-row candidates include Cronulla's Matt Prior, Parramatta's Junior Paulo, Penrith's James Tamou and Melbourne forward Dale Finucane.
The Cowboys were waiting on scan results for McLean but there was a feeling in Townsville the giant prop would miss three to four weeks, ruling him out of Origin II and III.
Lodge, who ran for a whopping 214m on Sunday, has been consistently impressive this season but his ill-discipline could work against him.
Campbell-Gillard has endured a difficult season and will struggle to win a recall, despite him being among the most aggressive players in the game when in form.
Legendary NSW prop Glenn Lazarus believes NSW should abandon the search for a hulking prop and consider using a workaholic back-row up front.
"We should look at a more mobile, work-ethic-type player," Lazarus said. "I don't think you necessarily need 110kg, 120kg front-rowers these days.
"Queensland's props weren't massive. Josh Papalii doesn't play prop for Canberra, Jai Arrow doesn't play front row for Gold Coast.
"A guy like Dale Finucane is an Origin-mould player. We should be looking at guys like Curtin Sironen. You could have Jake Trbojevic play front-row, which would open up a spot in the back-row.
"Maybe let's not think about traditional front-rowers and go with five guys who will be very physical and give us that go forward we really lacked in the second half of Origin I."
NSW adviser Greg Alexander said very little about the composition of the Blues side for Origin II.
Fortunately for Fittler, NSW prop Paul Vaughan had a robust game in Brisbane. He will be called on to shoulder added responsibility in Origin II at Perth on June 23.
Rookie Blue Payne Haas will also be asked to step up.
Asked about Lodge, Broncos coach Anthony Seibold said: "If you look at the amount of metres per carry he has made, he is right up there with any forward in the competition.
"I think he was forward of the year here last year, and I think he has carried that on this season."
Fittler will announce his side on Sunday night, with the Blues to fly to Perth the following morning.