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'Critta' makes his pitch for Origin kicker

With four members of the Westpac NSW Blues sitting in the NRL’s top-10 goal-kickers, and another two more than capable with the boot, centre Stephen Crichton says coach Michael Maguire is flushed for choice as Game One of the 2024 Ampol State of Origin approaches.

The loss of first-choice goal-kicker Nathan Cleary to a hamstring injury last month has not dampened the Blues’ prospects of raising the flags after a try or penalty.

So close is the contest this year that Crichton revealed the Blues coaching staff laid out kicking tees and balls at training so that half-a-dozen players could have a showdown before the uprights.

“There’s a lot of us goal-kickers so it was pretty cool and pretty funny,” Crichton said on Saturday as the NSW Blues wrapped up four days of training at the Blue Mountains Grammar School.

Crichton was among the group, although he’s not kicked a goal for the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs this year he slotted 74 goals in four seasons with Penrith as back-up kicker to Cleary.

NSW Blues halfback Nicho Hynes has 41 goals in 10 NRL games to sit second in the NRL, while 18th man Matt Burton is seventh (33), winger Zac Lomax is eighth (30) and Dylan Edwards is ninth (27).

Edwards pulled up with some quad soreness after today’s training session, but NSW also has Crichton and Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii in their named 17.

“I haven’t really spoken about kicking (with coaching staff) … we had a goal-kicking session the other day,” Crichton said.

“There’s a lot of good goal kickers there anyway so whoever does get it will do a good job.

“I don’t mind doing it, but if I don’t it just helps me narrow down my focus in the team and my little goals within the team.”

Crichton’s personal choice to take on the kicking duties is the man with a 76.9% accuracy rate in the NRL at present.

“Zac Lomax – keeps them good and straight,” Crichton said.

The Bulldogs captain, who is in his third Origin series, also revealed he was a little tentative about Maguire, when he heard he had been appointed the 2024 Origin coach.

“Before this camp I really thought he was scary and serious. But since meeting him I really like what he talks about and how he wants us to keep connected.

“Everything he’s done around the camp has been a massive tick.”

Maguire brought True Blues players into camp to tell the current players their Origin stories.

“We got to speak to them about what the jersey meant to them an how special it was,” Crichton said.

“It just motivated the boys … in 20 years time we want to be those type of players, where future Origin players will be asking us what we did.

“We want to leave the jersey in a better place than when we first got it.”

Acknowledgement of Country

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs respect and honour the Darug and Eora nations, who are the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.