Brad Fittler was on his phone until 11pm on Sunday night trying to find 17 players available to represent City Origin against Country one last time.
And even when his phone ran out of battery, his search wasn’t complete.
The representative availability crisis hit a new low on Monday morning, when Fittler was forced to delay naming his team due to the high amount of withdrawals.
Canberra and North Queensland had banned their players from selection, blaming player welfare, while Canterbury coach Des Hasler allowed only Adam Elliott to be named for Country.
“I always knew it was going to be like this from the moment Canterbury made their intentions clear,” Fittler said.
“I can’t control how they feel about the game or how they act allowing their players to be eligible.”
Eventually, when it was resolved, Jake Marketo was pulled from Illawarra’s NSW Cup side to be selected.
Marketo has been named in the Dragons’ 21-man squad just once this year – and that was in round one.
He was on his couch in Wollongong when he found out on Monday morning and initially thought the phone call from Fittler was a joke.
Penrith duo Nathan Cleary and James Tamou were in the Panthers’ gym together, before they found out they had to pack their bags and rush down the M4 to join the squad at about 10am.
“Getting James Tamou – that was someone I was on the phone about until late last night,” Fittler said.
“He was someone who people could feel could do with the week off but the situation of him putting his hand up to want to play and the club allowing him to play was a big coup.
“Once I had he and (Paul) Gallen up front I was happy to put anyone behind them.”
Those behind him include Parramatta’s David Gower – who has spent all but two games this year as the Eels’ 18th man or in reserve grade – and Hame Sele, who has played just four games off the bench for the Dragons.
The availability crisis also forced Fittler to name Panthers utility Bryce Cartwright at five-eighth, denying Matt Moylan a trial in the halves ahead of NSW State of Origin selection.
He is one of the few players pushing his Blues’ hopes as it’s understood potential hooking candidates for NSW, Nathan Peats and Peter Wallace, were also unavailable.
That allowed in-ford Dragons hooker Cameron McInness to be named in the No.9 jersey while Chad Townsend will start at halfback.
City: Matt Moylan, Clinton Gutherson, Nathan Ross, Tyrone Peachey, Josh Addo-Carr, Bryce Cartwright, Chad Townsend, James Tamou, Cameron McInnes, Paul Gallen, Curtis Sironen, David Gower, Hame Sele. Bench: Joseph Paulo, Nathan Cleary, Pauli Pauli, Jake Marketo.