New South Wales coach Brad Fittler has confirmed Api Koroisau could return to the Blues despite breaching the bubble during the 2021 series.
Koroisau made his State of Origin debut off the bench in game three. A week later it was revealed he had breached biosecurity protocols by sneaking a woman into the bubble.
The 29-year-old was hit with a $35,000 fine and two-game suspension from the NRL as well as a $15,000 fine from New South Wales Rugby League.
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When handing down the fine, NSWRL CEO David Trodden said: “If the Board is to consider further recommendations for his selection in NSW teams, it will need to be convinced he has earned the right to be once again trusted to uphold all of the standards, protocols and values of NSWRL.”
It seems Koroisau has done enough to convince Fittler to at least consider his return with the coach telling The Sydney Morning Herald “the door isn’t closed on Api.”
“I’ve always said everything gets taken into consideration. People make mistakes,” he added.
“Blake Ferguson was one player who (returned after controversy). ‘Fergo’ not only came back to play Origin, he threw the final pass for ‘Teddy’ (James Tedesco) to win game three in 2019. I wish him all the best through his latest drama.
“You lose a lot of trust, but day by day you can start building that trust up again.
“Since that has all happened, Api has knuckled down and gone off to win a grand final.
“We’ve still got 71 days (until the 2022 series kicks off). He’s going really well, even though Penrith have a few players out already. He’s definitely still eligible.”
Koroisau will go up against incumbent Blues No.9, Damien Cook, in a blockbuster grand final rematch on Friday.
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It’s an opportunity for the Panthers star to prove he deserves to be in the conversation for selection, however Fittler has conceded Cook is still leading the race — despite a quiet start to the season.
“Cooky is in the box seat,” Fittler said.
“He came up with a couple of poor tackles in the early rounds, but he’s tried hard, and he’s in a side that looked disjointed before last week’s Roosters game. Cooky has always shown his class, and under pressure he stands up.”
Fittler’s willingness to forgive Koroisau comes after new Maroons coach Billy Slater confirmed to the Herald that fellow bubble-breacher Jai Arrow will be in contention despite also disobeying protocols during last year’s series.
Arrow was also busted bringing a woman into the bubble.
The Rabbitohs forward revealed last month that he was invited to have dinner with Slater.
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“Jai made a mistake, and he’s paid the price,” Slater told the Herald.
“I’m big on respecting your position, and when you’re with the Queensland Maroons, be it as a player, coach or administrator, there’s a level of responsibility to uphold — you’re representing over five million people who are passionate and inspired by this team.
“If I’m being honest, I wasn’t there last year, and I’m all about this year and earning your opportunity. The players have ten weeks to earn a jersey, including Jai.”