IT was the decision Ricky Stuart did not want to make but one the NSW coach knew he had to if the Blues were going to end their six year Origin drought in next week’s series decider.
Aku Uate, who was named last year as the best winger in the world and is a dual Dally M winger of the year, has played five straight Origin games since making his debut in the first match of the 2011 series.
But the Fijian flyer was attacked by Queensland in both matches this season and Stuart realised a change was needed.
Knights teammate Darius Boyd scored two tries down his wing in Origin I and Ben Hannant grabbed a try just before half-time in the second match after Uate let a Queensland kick bounce.
Uate has been under an injury cloud with a groin strain for the past week but ran unencumbered with the Knights at training yesterday morning and is expected to take his place for them against Wests Tigers at Hunter Stadium tonight.
After dropping Uate yesterday, Stuart said that St George Illawarra fullback Brett Morris was a safer option and he will now line up alongside brother Josh for the first time in a NSW jumper.
‘‘It is hard when you have got to make those decisions and calls, you don’t like doing it, but for our NSW state, supporters and players it is a decision I had to make,’’ Stuart said of Uate’s axing.
‘‘I needed to bite the bullet, it is my job.’’
After making the decision, Stuart said he had made two phone calls yesterday – one to Uate and one to Morris.
Both had been positive and he said Uate would join the Blues camp in Brisbane.
‘‘It is something I had to mull over for a number of days and nights,’’ Stuart said. ‘‘He is young, he has had a bit of pressure on him over the last two games and he handled it very well but they kept coming down that edge, so I had to look it.
‘‘I just believe that there is an opportunity there to strengthen that edge defensively, but he won’t be gone for too long. I spoke to him today at great length and he is a quality young bloke.
‘‘I have got to credit Aku in terms of the phone call this afternoon when I rang him and told him. The message I got from him straight after I hung up was that ‘I can’t wait to join camp at the back end of the week to see all the boys and the staff’, so he is a terrific young man and I stress that he won’t be out for too long.’’
Steve Morris, the father of twins Brett and Josh, who represented NSW five times, was excited when told of the news yesterday while watching a blues band at the Towradgi Hotel, Wollongong.
‘‘They’re both in? That’s the first I’ve heard of it,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s great news for Brett and Josh. To see them playing together will be great.
‘‘They’ve obviously never played together for NSW, so it really is great that it’s finally happened.’’
However, Stuart is undecided whether the Morris brothers will line up next to each other, because both are usually left-side players and Josh is playing out of position at right centre to mark Greg Inglis.
Another option may be to switch Jarryd Hayne to the right wing and put Brett, who played on the left wing for NSW in last year’s series decider, outside Michael Jennings.
Stuart phoned Morris yesterday and said the 25-year-old knew it was good news.
‘‘He couldn’t get dropped, so obviously he was pretty excited about the fact that my name came up on his phone,’’ the passionate coach said.
Knights NSW Cup coach Rip Taylor will coach the NSW Cup representative team against Queensland Residents in the curtain-raiser to the Origin decider at Suncorp on July 4.
Knights utility forward Kyle O’Donnell was named on the bench for the team, and utility back Josh Mantellato was included as 19th man.