Paul Gallen's huge call on Latrell Mitchell after Bradman Best ruled out of State of Origin I

The Blues have been rocked by another untimely injury ahead of the Origin series opener.

Former NSW captain Paul Gallen has called on Michael Maguire to pick Latrell Mitchell at centre for the Blues, who have been rocked by another massive injury. The Newcastle Knights revealed on Monday that Bradman Best will miss four weeks with a hamstring injury, which rules him out of the State of Origin series opener.

Best made his Origin debut in Game III of last year's series, scoring two tries in a 24-10 win for NSW. But the 22-year-old aggravated a hamstring issue in the Knights' win over Gold Coast last Saturday.

"Bradman has been diagnosed with a grade two hamstring injury and he will miss at least four weeks," Knights football boss Peter Parr told AAP. "That would put him out of Origin I. He played exceptionally well on his debut and our expectation at the Knights was that he would get picked for NSW.

Bradman Best, Paul Gallen and Latrell Mitchell.
Bradman Best (L) has been ruled out of the State of Origin opener, leaving the door ajar for Latrell Mitchell (R). Image: Getty

"I spoke to him this afternoon and his attention had already turned to getting his rehab right. He is obviously disappointed but he has accepted that it is what it is. My conversation with him was all about his recovery and making sure he got back as quick as he could."

Best joins a growing injury list for the Blues, with Tom Trbojevic, Nathan Cleary and Cameron Murray all ruled out long-term. Trbojevic appeared odds-on to be picked at centre for NSW by new coach Maguire, but his injury had opened the door for Best to retain his place.

Bradman Best in action for NSW in Game III last year.
Bradman Best scored two tries in his State of Origin debut for NSW in Game III last year.


Stephen Crichton appears likely to be the other centre, with Mitchell, Matt Burton, Kotoni Staggs and Jesse Ramien all vying for the other spot. But according to former skipper Gallen, the man Maguire should go with is Mitchell.

The South Sydney fullback hasn't played Origin since 2021 and has reportedly been considering withdrawing from contention for NSW so he can focus on helping the Rabbitohs amid their dire slump. Many believe Mitchell's best position is centre and he always aims up when playing out wide for the Blues.

Latrell Mitchell in State of Origin in 2021.
Latrell Mitchell last played State of Origin in 2021.

"I just think we need his x-factor," Gallen wrote in a column for Wide World of Sports on Monday. "At Origin level you need players who can make something happen out of nothing and we all know Latrell has that rare quality.

"He's only played seven games this year and he's scored five tries - clearly he's a game-breaker. The other important factor is he's been there before and the Blues haven't won a series since he last played for them.

"In big games I like Latrell in the centres. At fullback he doesn't have the engine to do what needs to be done in defence over and over again at Origin level. We know he can be lazy, we see it often when he's playing for the Rabbitohs. He's not an Energiser Bunny type fullback like James Tedesco or Dylan Edwards but in the centres he doesn't have to be. He's just got to play his role, make his tackles and hopefully make a big play when the game is on the line."

If Mitchell declares himself unavailable or Maguire goes in another direction, the likes of Staggs, Burton and Ramien will all come into consideration. Speaking on Saturday night, Ramien said Maguire had informed him he's in contention.

"He wants me to continue to play good footy and that was pretty much it," he said of his conversation with the NSW coach. "People are gonna talk, but all I can focus on is playing good footy for my club and representative honours come off the back of that. I just focus on playing week-to-week.

"All I can do is go out there and put my best foot forward and if the representative honours come off the back of that, I'll take it with both hands. I'm in pretty good form, but at the end of the day it's up to Madge."