Josh Addo-Carr’s hopes of a State of Origin recall have received a boost, with NSW coach Brad Fittler saying the star winger is playing a lot better now than he was earlier in the year when he missed out on selection.
The Bulldogs winger was stunningly left out of the Blues side that lost this year’s Origin series but responded with an incredible World Cup campaign that netted a tournament-high 12 tries, including five against Lebanon.
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Addo-Carr has been a proven performer for NSW, scoring 10 tries in 12 appearances, but was overlooked this year, with Daniel Tupou and Brian To’o getting the nod on the wings.
Both were terrific in defeat, but many were surprised that the speedy Addo-Carr wasn’t picked.
“He was playing better in November than he was in March,” Fittler said, referencing Canterbury’s poor start to the year.
“I think if he takes that into the off-season and then playing for Canterbury … they’ve got a new couple of players and all of a sudden they could be winning games.
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“It always helps when you’re winning games, and he’s going back to a club that in my eyes will win more games because it looks like they’re going to be stronger.
“Everyone wants to see Josh play in the rep arena where you can see that he takes the game to another level.
“He was fantastic (in England). What he did is he proved that he’s the best person for that job. One thing that was really strong was his defence and he was carrying the ball out of trouble.
“He was one of the best players in the Australian team.”
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Fittler also defended Blues halfback Nathan Cleary, who copped plenty of flak for his performances in the green and gold jersey.
Cleary has led Penrith to back-to-back premierships but struggled to take control of the Kangaroos, with Australia’s attack looking clunky in the finals.
“He cops it a lot. For one of the better players in our game, he seems to get a lot of criticism, and I’m not sure why,” Fittler said.
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“His game, he’s not a Johnathan Thurston or an Andrew Johns, he’s a Nathan Cleary. Sometimes he doesn’t stand out, but I’ve never seen a game where he doesn’t give 100 per cent or he’s not nailing the details that people don’t see.
“I snigger at the criticism.”