Former State of Origin enforcer Greg Dowling says Queensland selectors will probably play the loyalty card with veteran warhorse Petero Civoniceva but won’t be able to ignore the line-up of young props behind him for too much longer.
With a deep pool of props to choose from for this year’s opening Origin game, selectors will have to make a few tough calls — one of them being whether to stick with Civoniceva or move into a new front-row era.
Their most-capped forward is on record as saying he doesn’t want to be responsible for holding back a young prop because selectors feel obligated to pick him.
He’s spoken with Queensland coach Mal Meninga but was keeping his cards close to his chest on Monday about his chances of playing his 31st Origin game in Melbourne next month.
Civoniceva has started in the front-row in 16 of Queensland’s past 18 Origins and been the cornerstone of their amazing record six straight series wins over NSW since 2006.
Since their 17-16 loss to the Blues in game one in 2006, his powerful charges have led Queensland to 12 wins from 15 Origins.
It would be an extremely unpopular decision to pension off the 36-year-old even though Australian selectors appear to have done just that after overlooking him for this month’s Test against New Zealand.
The emergence in recent years of Matt Scott, Ben Hannant, Dave Shillington, Dave Taylor and Josh McGuire has put pressure on selectors to look to the future.
But north Queensland hardman Dowling, who played 11 Origins in the 1980s, believes they’ll stick with Civoniceva out of loyalty — at least for game one.
“Nobody could argue Petero hasn’t been a great stalwart but there comes a time for all us,” Dowling told AAP.
“You can go too long.
“They’ll probably remain loyal to him for game one. That’s the beauty of Queensland’s selectors – they are very loyal.
“If he says he wants to play, they’ll pick him.
“(But)…. We’re not short on props but Matt Scott (foot) needs to get some games under his belt.”
Age is quickly catching up with the 109kg Civoniceva just as it did last year with another Queensland great, Darren Lockyer.
After major off-season surgery, he’s starting to play well although he is still short of the high standard he has set for himself in the past.
“I’m available but I’m not too concerned about it (Origin) at the moment. My focus is doing the job for the Broncos,” Civoniceva said on Monday.
“I spoke to Mal a few weeks ago and we had a good chat. He wanted me to concentrate on playing well for the Broncos.
“We’ve got some good front-rowers to pick from at the moment and all I can do is make sure I’m playing my best football for Brisbane.”