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Newcastle Herald

Three Knights Adam O'Brien thinks Brad Fittler should consider for NSW

Newcastle might be languishing near the bottom of the NRL ladder, but coach Adam O'Brien believes three of his players are still worthy of consideration for NSW.

With the State of Origin teams due to be selected this weekend for the series opener on June 8, O'Brien yesterday vouched for forwards Daniel Saifiti, Tyson Frizell and David Klemmer, saying all three could make a case to be part of Brad Fittler's Blues.

Saifiti was a mainstay of the NSW side before injury ruled him out of the final fixture last year, playing seven consecutive games and helping the Blues claim the 2021 and 2019 series.

But after a self-confessed dip in form last year and struggling much like the Knights are this season, 26-year-old Saifiti has played down his chances of being selected, saying last week: "I wouldn't pick me."

"He has been honest with himself, I like that," O'Brien said. "That's what men do when they are confronted with the brutal facts of their form. He has owned it.

INCUMBENT: Daniel Saifiti. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

"But I'm seeing signs, over the next few weeks, his best footy is going to come out.

"If Daniel is picked, he won't let the jersey down.

"He hasn't in the past and he is the custodian of it."

Prior to missing the entire 2021 series with injury, Tyson Frizell had made 14 straight apperances for NSW.

The 30-year-old back-rower was part of the side's back-to-back series victories in 2018-19 and has been one of Newcastle's best this season.

"He has had an interupted month with injury but he is back now," O'Brien said. "He has been there and done it on a number of occassions."

O'Brien had high praise for Klemmer, who hasn't featured for NSW since 2019, labelling him "arguably" Newcastle's "best player" this year.

Klemmer appears to have dropped out of favour with the Blues, his most recent apperance in the third game of the 2019 series.

But the 28-year-old workhorse has been a standout for Newcastle the past few weeks after returning from a knee injury that kept him out of four matches earlier this year.

"He has earned the right to be in those conversations," O'Brien said.

IN FORM: David Klemmer. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

"He has been ultra consistent and arguably our best player.

"He has certainly put himself in the frame to be talked about for Origin.

"I don't know if there is much more that he could do."

O'Brien said his two main props in Saifiti and Klemmer, who has played 14 Origins, had polar-opposite claims for selection.

Saifiti is basically an incumbent relying on past performances in the Origin arena, while Klemmer has recaptured some of his best form and has been there and done it before.

Asked whether Blues coach Brad Fittler should show loyalty to Saifiti despite his form this year, O'Brien said it was "hard to say".

"Brad will pick the team that he sees fit, but I do believe if you're the heavyweight champ you need to have the belt taken from you," the third-year NRL coach said.

"He is the custodian and has done so in the past. He certainly held his own in that arena and I'm confident he could do that again."

There could only be one prop position still up for grabs in the NSW side.

Payne Haas, Junior Paulo and Jake Trbojevic are all firm favourites to be selected.

There is also plenty of competition for spots in the back-row.

With the Knights placed 15th and desperately needing to win games through the Origin period to remain a chance of making the finals, O'Brien could be forgiven for crossing his fingers in the hope his players might be overlooked for selection.

But he said he always wanted the best for his men.

PLAYER AND COACH: Tyson Frizell, left, and Adam O'Brien, right. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

"I wear the Knights symbol on my heart, but I want them to achieve everything," he said.

"I'll never hold any of them back from a rep jersey.

"I'd always want them to be selected and play well, but at the same time I want them first and foremost to play well for us."

Tyson Frizell said he "absoultely" hoped to play for the Blues again when asked of his chances this week, but admitted Newcastle's results this season might not help his cause.

"We're not in a great spot at the moment so it's pretty hard to put your hand up," he said.

Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga and centre Dane Gagai are likely to be picked for Queensland.

Maroons coach Billy Slater said earlier this month Newcastle's seven-game losing streak had not hurt Ponga's chances.