My way-too-early Maroons team for State of Origin 2017

Jimmy Smith Columnist

By Jimmy Smith, Jimmy Smith is a Roar Expert

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    Ok, I know. I know. There are still nearly two months and 48 games before State of Origin teams are to be selected, but let’s get in nice and early.

    Everyone loves to speculate a little, so after five rounds, let’s help Kevin Walters with his selections for Origin Game 1 on May 31st at Suncorp Stadium.

    Queensland pick themselves right? You always hear that. Well, not quite.

    This year they have been hard hit by injuries and a retirement with three certain selections in Matt Scott, Corey Parker and Greg Inglis unavailable. These three have played 71 Origins and scored 19 tries between them, with scoring 18 of them, the most by any player.

    But Billy is back. Despite the feeling that Billy Slater might say no to Origin this year and repay the faith (and resources) that the Melbourne Storm have poured into him for little on-field return over the last two years, the greatest fullback to have ever played the game wants to get back in that Maroons jersey.

    Understandably Walters wants to pick him. Understandably, Slater wants to play. A player as competitive as him couldn’t stand to be on the sidelines.

    Queensland players celebrate Billy Slater's try during Game 3 of the 2014 State of Origin Series. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

    I think Queensland are stronger with Slater in for Darius Boyd at fullback.

    But does Slater’s return compensate for the loss of Inglis? No.

    It means the Maroons are a little stronger in the left wing position because Boyd will be moved there to accommodate Slater, but they are still their left-centre down.

    Justin O’Neill and Dane Gagai will make up the Maroons right side, and I think Coach Walters will probably go for Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk at five eighth and half respectively. Probably.

    Left-centre, marking up on Josh Dugan. Where can Walters look for this key position? Will Chambers plays right centre for Melbourne but has experience at Origin level.

    Tautau Moga has been solid for Brisbane without finding the sort of form that he needs to force Chambers out. Kyle Feldt on the wing for Gagai to left centre? Seems like too many changes for no significant uplift.

    Cameron Munster has impressed as a fullback, has the skill to play five eighth and is as fit as anyone in the league. And one of the most competitive. His broken jaw will see him return roughly Round 9 – so will have three full games to be right for Origin I. He will have 50 games of NRL under his belt by then. Yep, lets pick him.

    Matt Scott celebrates scoring for the Maroons

    Scott was a mainstay for Queensland over the 2016 series. And the other prop selection was a little problematic with Nate Myles and Josh McGuire filling the void. That means it’s even more problematic this year in Scott’s absence.

    Myles is back to the bench with Manly and there are question marks over his form but his phenomenal 31 games experience is going to be hard to cover, so he will get a start on my bench.

    Dylan Napa was a very naughty boy in the 2016 emerging Maroons camp and missed selection last year. Queensland will be hoping he is a choirboy in the lead up to May 31.

    Napa in front row with McGuire. Sam Thaiday and Matt Gillet will round out the back row, and I just have to start with Josh Papalii at lock. He doesn’t fill this role at his club but I think he can be even more explosive knowing he will get a rest at some point and be back for a second stint.

    Myles on the bench with… with… Anthony Milford? Tough call on Michael Morgan but can you imagine, as a tiring NSW forward, the last bloke you would want to see come on fresh is old twinkle toes Milford.

    With Papalii in the starting side you can carry extra middle forwards and play Papalii on an edge if there is an injury.

    The candidates for bench positions in previous years are Aidan Guerra, Jacob Lillyman, Gavin Cooper, Felise Kaufusi and Ethan Lowe.

    But the two players I would go with are Coen Hess and Dave Taylor. Hess is a supreme footballer, strong physically and gauging by how he played in that Cowboys vs Broncos semi final last year, not overawed by big occasions. A must, and a must pick for Queensland for the next decade.

    Taylor is left field, hasn’t played Origin since 2014, and has had a huge number of “distractions” over the last two seasons. But again I come back to the point – who would Laurie Daley and the Blues prefer to play against – Taylor or Lillyman? I know my answer.

    Cameron Smith will play hooker. And he will captain the side.

    That sentence is so easy to write, yet incredibly powerful for Queensland and debilitating for NSW. Whatever you think of the Australia, Queensland and Melbourne captain, his statistical record is ridiculous. Seriously, take a look at it.

    Smith will turn 34 on the Sunday before Game 2. And I still don’t see any early signs of ageing in his play.

    Cameron Smith of the Maroons

    In fact, the numbers that he (and Cronk) produced after Origin for Melbourne last year were better than his post Origin figures for many seasons. That says a lot about the Storm system, but it also says even more about the man.

    So just when you (maybe it was just me) thought that Queensland were showing signs they were going to have this golden period come to an end, they can come up with a 17 like this – and make everyone in NSW just that little more uncomfortable come winter.

    1 Billy Slater
    2 Darius Boyd
    3 Cameron Munster
    4 Justin O’Neill
    5 Dane Gagai
    6 Johnathan Thurston
    7 Cooper Cronk
    8 Josh McGuire
    9 Cameron Smith ©
    10 Dylan Napa
    11 Matt Gillet
    12 Sam Thaiday
    13 Josh Papalii

    14 Anthony Milford
    15 Nate Myles
    16 Coen Hess
    17 Dave Taylor

    Jimmy Smith
    Jimmy Smith

    A well-known and respected NRL commentator, Jimmy Smith played professional rugby league in an 11-year career that included stints in both the NRL with the Roosters, Western Suburbs and South Sydney, and England's Super League with Salford. He earned over 150 first grade caps before hanging up the boots and switching to the commentary box. You can find him on Twitter @ThatJimmySmith.

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    The Crowd Says (77)

    • Roar Guru

      April 4th 2017 @ 6:49am
      Magnus M. Østergaard said | April 4th 2017 @ 6:49am | ! Report

      I can’t agree with Milford on the bench. You say he old twinkle toes, but at the moment he is old Twinkie toes. Hes stacked on the beef but it has not helped his attack and his defense has gone backwards. Morgan isn’t it the form of his career, but his versatility would shine through here, you don’t want to be carrying a defensive liability like Milford in Origin if he comes on to replace a forward.

      Hopefully Napa recovers from injury and has a scintilating month back on the field. I would probably put Myles into the starting rotation over McGuire who goes to lock, Gillett goes to his preferred side of the field and Put GCooper into his combination with Thurston with Thaiday dropping to the bench if at all.

      Whatever ends up happening QLD needs some help in the forwards, our depth is going to be sorely lacking if some more youngsters dont stand up over the next few years.

      • April 4th 2017 @ 7:02am
        soapit said | April 4th 2017 @ 7:02am | ! Report

        yep morgan is ideal utility for me

        i also would have thought the slater/boyd discussion to get a bit more air time. boyd is the incumbent kangaroo fullback after all and is at least playing as well this year

      • Columnist

        April 4th 2017 @ 3:08pm
        Jimmy Smith said | April 4th 2017 @ 3:08pm | ! Report

        It was hard for me to leave Morgan out Vincent – and we all know how loyal Queenslanders say they are – but Milford has been in good form and would cause all sorts of problems from the bench I think.

        • Roar Guru

          April 4th 2017 @ 5:55pm
          Magnus M. Østergaard said | April 4th 2017 @ 5:55pm | ! Report

          He has been at times, but rpund 1 is the only round he has shown any reason why he should be considered He needs to get his head right

      • April 5th 2017 @ 12:27am
        Mad Max said | April 5th 2017 @ 12:27am | ! Report

        How hsant Corey oates been mentioned … he would be awesome as a utility. In fact pick 2 utility players … he’s the verities forward back and Morgan the utility forward.

        You’re welcome.

    • April 4th 2017 @ 7:26am
      Aaron said | April 4th 2017 @ 7:26am | ! Report

      There’s no way that Milford is getting a run over the incumbent, Morgan, based on current form. His defense is rubbish at the moment, and his attack is pretty ordinary as well. At least one more year, and needs to rediscover his scintillating form of the first half of 2016 in order to be any chance.

      Queensland loyalty means Myles and Thaiday should retain their starting roles. McGuire will move to lock to cover Parker. Napa gets the open prop position.

      The bench should consist of Morgan, Papalii, Guerra and Cooper/Lillyman/Hess.

      I like the idea of Hess in the squad to cause some major damage, but depends on the loyalty factor.

    • April 4th 2017 @ 7:27am
      P. Marlowe said | April 4th 2017 @ 7:27am | ! Report

      Not sure about both Thaiday and Myles (although the latter has surprisingly raised his game for Manly this year).

      Would like to see Ethan Lowe get a run. Also Kaufusi for Melbourne has been amazing this year. Both of them are so fit which Thaiday/Myles seem to be lacking a bit (which is understandable as they are getting old). Will be very important as NSW’s backrow is going to be their strength (Cordner, Frizzell and Merrin are all excellent players).

      Just not that sure about Taylor. I know we are short on props but I just don’t think his temperament is right for Origin.

      On form, you need to go Chambers over O’Neill. I didn’t think O’Neill was that impressive last year – did not look safe under a high ball at all.

      Also, given club performances, Valentine Holmes will be pushing for Gagai’s spot.

      • April 4th 2017 @ 5:10pm
        Barney Sivoro said | April 4th 2017 @ 5:10pm | ! Report

        Korbin Sims is also playing great footy and could be a good replacement for Corry Parker

    • April 4th 2017 @ 7:33am
      Jimmmy said | April 4th 2017 @ 7:33am | ! Report

      You must think QLD are doomed if you have to pick Dave Taylor. No thanks. Gavin Cooper is twice the player he will ever be.

      • Columnist

        April 4th 2017 @ 3:11pm
        Jimmy Smith said | April 4th 2017 @ 3:11pm | ! Report

        Yes but Gavin Cooper just covers left edge Jimmmmy – Taylor can play middle and edge. Papalli as lock means you can move him to edge if required.

        The balancing act!!!

    • Columnist

      April 4th 2017 @ 8:22am
      Tom Rock said | April 4th 2017 @ 8:22am | ! Report

      You’ve broken the seal on Origin for the year Jimmy. Prepare for the flood!

    • April 4th 2017 @ 8:51am
      david said | April 4th 2017 @ 8:51am | ! Report

      Papali is arguably the best edge players in the comp. Why waste him in the middle?

      • April 4th 2017 @ 10:18am
        zim said | April 4th 2017 @ 10:18am | ! Report

        This every day. I’d say he is the best second rower in the comp.

        • Columnist

          April 4th 2017 @ 3:11pm
          Jimmy Smith said | April 4th 2017 @ 3:11pm | ! Report

          Boyd Cordner

          • April 4th 2017 @ 3:28pm
            PNG Broncos fan88 said | April 4th 2017 @ 3:28pm | ! Report

            If Slater and Munster are in the starting team, I’m putting my money on the Blues.

      • April 4th 2017 @ 1:09pm
        Alex L said | April 4th 2017 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

        Putting aside that the idea of wasting a player by having them in the middle is absurd (because if the middle collapses, good luck winning the game), because he’s in direct competition with Gillett who is a better player.

        • April 4th 2017 @ 2:27pm
          zim said | April 4th 2017 @ 2:27pm | ! Report

          Papalii is above Gillett and Thaiday isn’t even in the same ball park anymore.
          The idea of wasting a player in any position on the field is not absurd in the slightest if you understand what is meant by the sentence.
          If you want a metres donkey who’s main bag is getting a quick play the ball and making tackles then there’s plenty of players that don’t have the extra skill set that someone like Papalii has that can fill that role for you.

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