Haumole Olakau'atu makes startling confession about axing from NSW State of Origin team

Olakau'atu believes it was the right call to drop him for the Origin decider.

Haumole Olakau'atu admits it was the right call by Michael Magiure to drop him for the State of Origin decider, believing Mitchell Barnett has done more to deserve his place. Many Blues fans were expecting a relatively unchanged side for Origin Game 3 with the decider taking place in Brisbane but Maguire opted to drop the Manly back-rower after a quiet Game 2.

Olakau'atu has been in superb form for his club this year, which saw him earn a Blues call-up in the first place. Coming off the bench, Olakau'atu was expected to be a serious threat on the edge against a tired Maroons outfit, offering a real try-scoring threat for NSW. But he was rather quiet in both performances having only played 23 minutes and 18 minutes respectively.

Haumole Olakau'atu pictured
Haumole Olakau'atu admits it was the right call for Michael Magiure to drop him for the State of Origin decider. Image: Getty

The Manly back-rower ran for 83 metres off the bench in Game 1 but only managed 19 metres with six tackles in Game 2. Ahead of Game 3, Maguire pulled the trigger and brought in Barnett in his place to provide NSW more versatility on the bench, with Barnett able to try and help dominate the middle of the field as well as being able to play on an edge.

It will also allow Liam Martin to play 80 minutes as a right back-rower, instead of moving to the middle as part of the middle rotation. And despite being disappointed at being left out of the series decider Olakau'atu says it was the right decision.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 19: Mitchell Barnett of the Warriors celebrates victory during the round 11 NRL match between New Zealand Warriors and Penrith Panthers at Suncorp Stadium, on May 19, 2024, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
Mitchell Barnett has been in stellar form for the Warriors in 2024.

"I respect his decision. It's for the best. I believe he has made the right decision," Olakau'atu told AAP. "It's the truth. And in all honesty, this will only motivate me for next year and the future to come. It's great to see Mitch Barnett in the team. I feel like he has deserved it all season. He is a very good player, I feel like he is made for this big arena and big games."

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Olakau'atu was one of the first to contact Barnett once he was informed by Maguire that he no longer had a place in the 17 and the New Zealand prop says he feels really bad for him. "I feel extremely bad for Haumole," Barnett said.

"He is a terrific player and a terrific person. He was one of the first people to message me when the team was announced. It just shows the character he's got and the character this group has got. I'm extremely grateful for his friendship and his kind words."

The versatility Barnett offers was a key factor in his selection, with NSW wanting to roll through the Queensland pack which lacks size in the middle. And Barnett says he is ready to play either at prop or in the back row. "I have a good knowledge and understanding of both roles," Barnett said.

"I was naturally a back-rower as a junior. Since I have gone to the Warriors (I have) moved to the front row. I think I am naturally more of a front-rower, especially in today's game with it being a bit faster."

with AAP