NSW prop Andrew Fifita will miss the opening two games of the State of Origin series after sustaining grade two ankle syndesmosis in Cronulla’s defeat by Parramatta on Monday.
The 24-year-old, who was the Blues’ best forward in last year’s series loss, rolled his ankle less than 10 minutes into the game and although he tried to play on, he was forced off the field and then left Pirtek Stadium on crutches.
Fifita underwent scans after the game and it revealed the full extent of the injury which is set to keep him out of action between six to eight weeks.
The news is a massive blow to the Blues’ preparations, with coach Laurie Daley naming his side next Tuesday, before the squad fly up to Coffs Harbour where they’ll set up camp before the series opener in Brisbane on May 28.
Daley also looks certain to be without key back-rower Greg Bird, who was slugged with a grade three lifting tackle on Monday for a challenge on South Sydney’s Bryson Goodwin.
If Bird accepts the charge he’ll miss four matches and the first two matches of the series, should he opt to fight the grading and lose he could spend six weeks out and miss all three games.
NSW halfback Mitchell Pearce’s selection is also under a cloud after he was arrested on Saturday night following an incident at a Kings Cross nightspot.
Blues star Jarryd Hayne bemoaned the timing of the incidents and admitted he feared the worst when he saw the Bird challenge on TV, with the NRL cracking down on lifting tackles following the career-ending injury to Newcastle’s Alex McKinnon.
“It’s been a whirlwind 48 hours, I saw Birdy’s one and I rolled me head and thought ‘no he’ll miss Origin’,” Hayne said.
“It’s tough, because when you put players in that position you think teammates have the upper body.
“When a teammate let’s go there’s nothing you can do. But it was a dangerous position and they are a bit touchy on that as of late.”
Hayne was near to Fifita when he sustained his injury and thought he’d simply twisted his ankle, only to realise it was much worse at halftime.
“I saw him do it at the time and hoped it wouldn’t be too bad, but I saw him at halftime and he was on crutches and knew it must be quite bad.
“I think it might be a while. It’s a real shame.”