NSW coach Brad Fittler has labelled Jordan McLean an "unsung hero" and hopes the North Queensland prop can channel his club form into a long-awaited State of Origin debut.
McLean, who replaces the injured Payne Haas at prop, was preferred to Parramatta's Reagan Campbell-Gillard to play in the series decider at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday week.
The Blues are aiming to win a decider in Brisbane for the first time since 2005, having lost game one in Sydney before beating Queensland in Perth in game two.
McLean had been close to NSW selection in 2017 but only earned a recall to Fittler's extended squad for Origin II.
At 30, McLean, who has won eight caps for Australia, will become the sixth oldest Blues debutant in State of Origin history.
"A few years ago I remember talking to a few players in a room and he was one of those young players that was about to make his debut and he never quite got there," Fittler said on Monday.
"To watch what he's done this year, he's been outstanding. What he's been doing for the Cowboys - he's an unsung hero.
"(It shows) if you get to 30 - it's never too late. His form, along with the North Queensland team hasn't been great over the last couple of years. (But) the whole club has been unbelievable (in 2022) and he's a big part of that."
Haas has been ruled out with a shoulder injury that has plagued him all season and was reaggravated in Brisbane's loss to North Queensland on Saturday.
Fittler conceded Haas' absence would affect how he used his bench which is composed of hooker Damien Cook, forwards Angus Crichton and Junior Paulo as well as the versatile Siosifa Talakai.
"He (Haas) has done a pretty remarkable job with Brisbane and Origin over the last couple of months," Fittler said.
"I'm looking forward to seeing how he goes at the back end of the year. We'll have to have a look at that (interchanges). He gives you the luxury of playing him longer."
Aside from the inclusion of McLean, Fittler's squad is unchanged from Perth.
The big talking point after Latrell Mitchell's withdrawal from Origin III was whether Jack Wighton would force his way back into a role in the centres.
Wighton was one of the Blues' best in game one but after contracting COVID-19, missed out on the trip to Perth.
Matt Burton and Stephen Crichton have kept their starting spots and Talkai has held onto his bench role with Wighton consigned to 18th man.
"That was a tough one, Siosifa gives us versatility on the bench and that's why we went with him instead of Jack," Fittler said.
"What Matt did in the second game offered us a little bit more, and what Jack brings is different to what Matt brings."
The uncapped trio of Nicho Hynes, Jacob Saifiti and Reece Robson round out the extended squad along with Parramatta's Clint Gutherson.
NSW TEAM FOR ORIGIN III
James Tedesco (capt), Brian To'o, Matt Burton, Stephen Crichton, Daniel Tupou, Jarome Luai, Nathan Cleary, Jordan McLean, Api Koroisau, Jake Trbojevic, Cameron Murray, Liam Martin, Isaah Yeo. Bench: Damien Cook, Angus Crichton, Junior Paulo, Siosifa Talakai. Reserves: Jack Wighton, Nicho Hynes, Clint Gutherson, Jacob Saifiti, Reece Robson.
Australian Associated Press
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