Maroons front row stocks dwindling for Origin
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There was once a time when Queensland could call on an endless line of representative front rowers to bash the helpless New South Wales Blues into submission.
While Blues coach Laurie Daley has the wonderful predicament of fitting at least half a dozen players into three spots, the Maroons will be forced to blood unproven youngsters in the hellfire that is State of Origin football.
Alarm bells were ringing for Queensland mentor Mal Meninga when Ben Hannant limped from Parramatta Stadium in the 19-18 loss to the Eels on Saturday night.
Reports suggest Hannant could miss up to a month with a hamstring injury.
With the Maroons side named in a fortnight, Hannant’s place is now up for grabs with youngsters Martin Kennedy and Josh McGuire roaring into contention.
But McGuire’s chances have also taken a hit after being placed on report Saturday night for a high-shot on Eels superstar Jarryd Hayne.
Another option for Queensland is to push Sam Thaiday up to the front row. But even this would be music to Daley’s ears as his impact on the match would be all but nullified.
Undoubtedly Matt Scott and David Shillington will lead the pack and have no choice but play big minutes against the Blues.
Shillington returned from a rib cartilage injury in the Canberra’s Raiders big win over the Newcastle Knights on Sunday.
Nonetheless, stocks are slim for Queensland and you can guarantee the Blues brains trust can smell blood in the water.
A massive target has now been placed on the chests of Scott and Shillington.
With the likes of James Tamou, Aaron Woods, Tim Grant, Willie Mason, Andrew Fifita and Aiden Tolman waiting in the wings New South Wales clearly have the upper hand through the middle third.
The Blues now have the front row to go with the most dangerous back row combination in rugby league.
Origin matches might be won by the Cooper Cronks and the Jarryd Haynes in the dying moments. But the platform they work from is setup by the blood and sweat of the men in the middle.
New South Wales also have the advantage in 2013 of playing not one but two matches at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium. It’s no secret the Maroons struggle at Homebush and its slower track.
Queensland’s greatness will truly be tested.
The Blues have their own injury concerns with speedsters Brett Stewart and Brett Morris considered unlikely starters on June 5.
But outside backs can be replaced.
Quality State of Origin hard men are few and far between.