Kevin Walters is bereft of a poker face

David Lord Columnist

By , David Lord is a Roar Expert

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    When Queensland coach Kevin Walters announced his season-opening Origin squad, he was in tears over the shock omission of Billy Slater.

    Yesterday he looked like a rabbit in the headlights explaining why six had been dropped after the 28-4 Origin 1 defeat.

    But one of his comments – “I think this is a better team” – was hardly a ringing endorsement of the selector’s decisions, and Walters is a selector.

    The biggest shock was six dropped – Corey Oates, Justin O’Neill, Sam Thaiday, Nate Myles, Jacob Lillyman and Aidan Guerra, with Anthony Milford injured.

    Suck carnage hasn’t been seen during Queensland’s record 10 series successes in 11 seasons.

    We keep reading and hearing how NSW gutted the Maroons 28-4 in the Origin opener, but that wasn’t the case.

    Queensland looked set for five more tries, but were denied by phenomenal defence, especially from James Tedesco and Josh Dugan.

    In past Origins those five tries would have been scored, and with conversions the Maroons would have won.

    So yesterday was history-making for the Queensland selectors of Gene Miles in the chair, Darren Lockyer and Walters.

    The pick and stick formula Queensland has so loyally stuck to was given a major flick, and only form players got the nod.

    Billy Slater runs the ball for the Maroons in State of Origin

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    Back comes Slater a game late, and with Johnathan Thurston fit again, Queensland will have four of their five world-class superstars in Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Slater and Thurston back on deck. They are only missing Greg Inglis.

    That high-quality quartet is capable of beating an unchanged NSW at ANZ Stadium – all by themselves.

    The new boys on the Queensland block – Valentine Holmes, Coen Hess, Tim Glasby, and Jarrod Wallace if he survives the judiciary on a shoulder charge – will gain a year’s experience in the next week from the big four.

    It will be priceless.

    Tradition has it experience counts for everything in Origin, until NSW blew that theory to smithereens at Suncorp.

    NSW won that game by busting Queensland up the middle with Andrew Fifita in devastating form.

    But the NSW starting pack had only 33 appearances between them. Queensland boasted 97, yet were blasted off the park.

    At ANZ next week, NSW will have a pack with 39 caps and Queensland will be dramatically reduced to 73, which could translate to a genuine rugby league lesson from the Blues.

    In the backs, Queensland had 64 Origin appearances at Suncorp, but will have 126 at ANZ with Slater and Thurston back in business.

    That’s an awesome advantage.

    Team-wise at Suncorp, including the bench, NSW had 108 appearances to Queensland’s 216.

    Queensland Maroons' Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater hold the Holden State of Origin shield as they celebrate their win

    (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

    But Queensland lost 28-4.

    At ANZ, NSW will have 125 Origins to their credit, Queensland with all those changes will still have 206.

    There’s an omen there for NSW as they field their first unchanged Origin 1 and Origin 2 sides since 1996.

    Back then, NSW won the series 3-0.

    Let’s see if history can repeat itself.

    The squads
    NSW – James Tedesco, Brett Morris, Josh Dugan, Jarryd Hayne, Blake Ferguson, James Maloney, Mitchell Pearce, Aaron Woods, Nathan Peats, Andrew Fifita, Boyd Cordner (c), Josh Jackson, Tyson Frizell – David Klemmer, Wade Graham, Jake Trbojevic and Jack Bird.

    Queensland – Billy Slater, Darius Boyd, Will Chambers, Dane Gagai, Valentie Holmes, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Dylan Napa, Cameron Smith, Josh Papalii, Gavin Cooper, Matt Gillett, Josh McGuire – Michael Morgan, Coen Hess, Jarrod Wallace, and Tim Glasby.

    David Lord
    David Lord

    David Lord was deeply involved in two of the biggest sporting stories - World Series Cricket in 1977 and professional rugby in 1983. After managing Jeff Thomson and Viv Richards during WSC, in 1983 David signed 208 of the best rugby players from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France to play an international pro circuit. The concept didn’t get off the ground, but it did force the IRB to get cracking and bring in the World Rugby Cup, now one of the world’s great sporting spectacles