Blues back Pangai to keep cool starting in Origin I
NSW insist Canterbury firebrand Tevita Pangai will be able to keep his cool in State of Origin, after Brad Fittler handed him a starting jersey for his Game I debut.
Fittler on Monday confirmed Panagi and Payne Haas would start in the front row next Wednesday in Adelaide, with Junior Paulo to come off the bench.
Fellow debutant Hudson Young will start in the second row alongside the recalled Tyson Frizell, bumping Liam Martin and Cameron Murray back to starting bench roles.
Pangai emerged as the biggest bolter in the Blues' squad on Monday, after Jake Trbojevic withdrew on Sunday evening with calf issues.
Fittler has long been a fan of Pangai, and in 2019 said he had the potential to be the best player in the world.
But the 27-year-old's career has been littered with behavioural issues, including a string of suspensions when at Brisbane.
"I've liked him for a while. I can see that teams are intimidated by him. At times he hasn't handled that well either," Fittler said.
"But I've just always liked him. He is super talented. It's just a matter of him just getting that next level of control, showing leadership.
"And when I talk to people at Canterbury he is a great trainer, and he prepares excellent."
Fittler said there would be no confusion over whether Pangai could cross the line in the emotion of an Origin debut.
"Everyone understands now with sin bins, that red line is a dangerous place to go," Fittler said.
"There's teams that do it very well and others that are happy to flirt with that line.
"It's a pretty physical game. It's as tough as it gets. They have to be confident and ready."
Haas was confident Pangai would have no issue controlling his temper, after starting with him previously at Brisbane.
Since leaving the Broncos midway through 2021, Pangai has not been sin-binned in any match, and he has given away only one penalty in six games this year.
"He does have that aggression, but he's done a pretty good job this year of owning it and using it in different ways," Haas said.
"In his game this year we haven't seen that red rag to the bull we usually see from him. He is just doing his own game."
Game I looms as crucial for NSW in their bid to win back the Shield, with the following match set for Suncorp Stadium.
Fittler also indicated NSW would not expect Apisai Koroisau to play 80 minutes as the sole hooker, after opting for him ahead of mainstay Damien Cook at No.9.
Debutant Nicho Hynes will likely spend some time there during the game if required, with Koroisau averaging 69 minutes a match this year at Wests Tigers.
Fittler was also relieved to see Tom Trbojevic and Josh Addo-Carr prove their fitness and form in Sunday's games, with the pair to start at centre and on the wing in Adelaide.
That left Campbell Graham as the odd man out, initially picked as 18th man before being withdrawn due to a sternum injury and replaced by Stephen Crichton.
NSW players attended the True Blue dinner on Monday night, where Danny Buderus, Mick Cronin, Dally Messenger, Frank Burge and Dave Brown were inducted into the Hall of Fame, ahead of the team's first training session on Tuesday.
James Tedesco, Brian To'o, Latrell Mitchell, Tom Trbojevic, Josh Addo-Carr, Jarome Luai, Nathan Cleary, Tevita Pangai, Apisai Koroisau, Payne Haas, Tyson Frizell, Hudson Young, Isaah Yeo. Bench: Junior Paulo, Cameron Murray, Liam Martin, Nicho Hynes. 18th man: Stephen Crichton