Queensland Maroons team for Origin 1: Expert reaction

AJ Mithen Columnist

By AJ Mithen, AJ Mithen is a Roar Expert

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    Here it is, Kevin Walters’ Queensland team for State of Origin 1 in Melbourne. There’s some tried and true performers and once again the Maroons have the luxury of blooding some new talent.

    As usual, the lead-up to the series has been all about New South Wales and their attempt to build a competitive team. But Queensland are in a new phase of their own after losing three of Origin’s greatest performers: Cooper Cronk, Johnathan Thurston and Cameron Smith. These three are almost irreplaceable and there will be a lot of pressure on Ben Hunt and Cameron Munster in the halves and Andrew McCullough at hooker.

    Is this an Origin team that can win? You bet. With proven rep talent supported by the next maroon wave, 12 from 13 is a huge possibility.

    1. Billy Slater
    The automatic choice at fullback. There’s not much else you can say about Billy Slater in State Of Origin – he’s just as dynamic and influential today as he was when he started in 2004.

    2. Valentine Holmes
    After a somewhat sticky start to 2018, Holmes has settled into a rhythm of scoring tries and busting the line. He’ll be tough to stop with a head of steam.

    3. Greg Inglis (captain)
    GI is in vintage touch so far in 2018. He’s fit, he’s fresh, the fend is back, the speed is (mostly) back and he’s having fun out there. The side’s new captain, he’s a natural leader for a squad without three of its big guns and if he gets into his usual Origin mood, watch out.

    4. Will Chambers
    A somewhat unsung hero of the Queensland setup. Maroon fans love him, Blues fans detest him – that’s how you know he’s good. He gives consistently strong service in the centres and it’s fair to expect more of the same.

    5. Dane Gagai
    No-brainer for Walters here. Gagai was last year’s Wally Lewis medallist as the best player of the 2017 series and he rises to the occasion. Averages a try a game in Origin.


    (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

    6. Cameron Munster
    One standout game in Origin at five-eighth and Queenslanders will be expecting more of the same. This kid is a gun but is that too much expectation? Probably not. He’s second in the NRL for try assists and looks ‘built for Origin’.

    7. Ben Hunt
    Seen as the natural progression at the halfback spot, Hunt has been fantastic for the Dragons as they waltz away at the top of the NRL table. But Origin? That’s another story…

    8. Dylan Napa
    As Napa has struggled in 2018, so has his club in Sydney. His defence needs to be cleaned up, but obviously Walters feels Napa can play a role for Queensland. A lot of eyes will be on his performance in Game 1.

    Cameron Smith
    The greatest Origin hooker we’ve ever see….. oh, wait.

    9. Andrew McCullough
    Wanna feel some pressure? How about taking over a key position in the aftermath of the greatest Queensland dummy half? It was the most talked about position and McCullough’s defensive workrate and reliability that got him the nod. Don’t expect too much, but don’t expect too little, either.

    10. Jarrod Wallace
    The key to doing well in Origin is taking a hit and pushing forward – Wallace gives Queensland that drive and will also supply some consistent defence. Walters loves this predictability on the big stage.

    Dylan Napa

    (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

    11. Gavin Cooper
    Protector of the halves in more ways than one, Cooper is a proven leader who is well suited to the Origin cauldron. His club aren’t going so well in North Queensland, but when the going is tough, Walters knows he can rely on Cooper.

    12. Felise Kaufusi
    Kaufusi is putting together quite the body of work recently and this is a well-earned selection. At club level he’s got reliable defence, a good eye for the offload and some sneakily good attack, it will be interesting to see how he manages the step up in intensity.

    13. Josh McGuire
    A miraculous recovery from a supposedly serious ankle injury. McGuire is arguably the best lock forward in the business but a bung ankle is a bad thing to drag behind you into the toughest series in the game…

    14. Michael Morgan
    Morgan is fantastic in the Maroon. He knows all the strengths around him and more importantly, he knows how to make the most of them. His experience will be critical as Queensland move past the Cronk/Thurston/Smith era.

    Michael Morgan NRL Finals North Queensland Cowboys Rugby League 2017

    (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

    15. Josh Papalii
    Do you start Papalii or do you hold him back for impact off the bench? The Raiders dropped the big man after an extraordinarily average start to 2018 but since then, he’s been back to his bullocking, hard-hitting best. With Josh McGuire in injury strife, it might be time to bring the big Raider on from kickoff.

    16. Coen Hess
    Fair or unfair, Hess came to State of Origin with high expectations upon him and there’s a question over whether he met them or not. He’s got all the tools: strength, power, a tackle that rattles your ancestors… But Queenslanders will want to be seeing a bit more from him.

    17. Jai Arrow
    This kid is a gun and a big future piece for Queensland campaigns. He churns through metres and can handle a punishing workload. Arrow is to watch for the future, no matter what happens this series.

    AJ Mithen
    AJ Mithen

    AJ watches far too much sport. When he's not watching it, he's reading about it. When he's not reading about it, he's writing about it and when he's not writing about it, he's talking about it on the podcast ‘A Sporting Discussion’. Rugby league has AJ's heart, but he loves to give space to the sports that the mainstream forgets - he’ll never rest until Australian baseball gets the coverage it deserves! He’s always game for a debate in a comments section or on twitter @AJMithen - but you’d best come prepared!

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    The Crowd Says (128)

    • May 28th 2018 @ 10:06am
      jimmmy said | May 28th 2018 @ 10:06am | ! Report

      The obvious team. No surprises and really the only one that could be selected. Maguire is a big in if he is truly recovered.

      • Roar Guru

        May 28th 2018 @ 10:11am
        Renegade said | May 28th 2018 @ 10:11am | ! Report

        Agree Jimmmy, apart from the inclusion of Matt Scott…. this is the best team they could pick.

    • May 28th 2018 @ 10:21am
      jamesb said | May 28th 2018 @ 10:21am | ! Report

      It’s not a bad forward pack from Qld. I am a fan of Jai Arrow. He has the tools to be the best forward in the game. I wish he was a blue.

    • Roar Guru

      May 28th 2018 @ 10:22am
      Emcie said | May 28th 2018 @ 10:22am | ! Report

      Pretty safe team all round really. Still not sold on Hunt on the big stage but if he’s going to get a chance Game 1’s a better stage to test him out then in a decider. Looks like the Cowboys refusing to say whether they’d fight Scotts charge or not has cost his spot,

      McGuire’s an interesting one. Wasn’t sure they’d risk his first game in weeks being origin

      • May 28th 2018 @ 10:31am
        DP Schaefer said | May 28th 2018 @ 10:31am | ! Report

        Emcie, if I heard Kevvie right then Scotts knee recovery was also in their minds.

        • Roar Guru

          May 28th 2018 @ 10:46am
          Emcie said | May 28th 2018 @ 10:46am | ! Report

          Yeah, just read a thing saying that they wanted him to play more games first. Funnily enough that’s the same reason Slater wasn’t picked last year…

          • May 28th 2018 @ 12:28pm
            Mushi said | May 28th 2018 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

            Slightly different for a middle forward right?

            • Roar Guru

              May 28th 2018 @ 2:24pm
              Emcie said | May 28th 2018 @ 2:24pm | ! Report

              Maguire was still picked and he hasn’t played a game since round 8

      • May 28th 2018 @ 11:25am
        Griffo said | May 28th 2018 @ 11:25am | ! Report

        I’m sure that they changed this loophole, but given that Matt Scott has not been named for Queensland, a 1 match suspension must be served for the Cowboys. So then could Matt Scott be brought into the Queensland team after the weekend if say Josh Maguire wasn’t fit enough to play?

        • Roar Guru

          May 28th 2018 @ 12:05pm
          Emcie said | May 28th 2018 @ 12:05pm | ! Report

          Or you could just pull a NSW and have Ennis a player train with the team all week and just change the annonced line up after suspension is served when Farrah a different player suddenly succumbs to an injury they’ve had for the whole time

          • May 28th 2018 @ 12:45pm
            Griffo said | May 28th 2018 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

            Yeah I remembered this happening. When I searched it on Google it an article said Queensland did a similar thing by naming TBA on the wing in 2002, allowing Tuqiri to serve a suspension for the Broncos then play for Queensland.
            One of the things with Ennis that made it more palatable was that it was carryover points that made it a suspension for the something that otherwise wouldn’t be a suspendab offence. If Queensland was to do this with Scott it could be his clean record that makes it more palatable.

            • Roar Guru

              May 28th 2018 @ 12:57pm
              Emcie said | May 28th 2018 @ 12:57pm | ! Report

              The 2002 incident supposedly sparked the rule change to stop it happening again. The Ennis thing blew that theory out of the water. Neither situation should be palatable, it’s deliberately circumventing the judiciary

              • May 28th 2018 @ 1:24pm
                Griffo said | May 28th 2018 @ 1:24pm | ! Report

                But is it ok to bring in Scott as a replacement for Maguire if Maguire is deemed not to be fit enough to play after Scott, not having been picked for Queensland, serves his suspension this weekend (Thursday actually)? Is it different if he doesn’t come into camp beforehand? And what if it isn’t Maguire, who we already know is under an injury cloud. Say Napa picks up an injury in camp, is it ok then?

              • Roar Guru

                May 28th 2018 @ 1:34pm
                Emcie said | May 28th 2018 @ 1:34pm | ! Report

                There was talk going round at the time (after the Ennis thing) that suspensions should count for the entire week of the suspension rather then just the next game but I dunno if anything came of it. Even if it’s still a loophole I don’t like, it’d just be another example of everything that’s wrong with our game.

              • May 28th 2018 @ 2:11pm
                Griffo said | May 28th 2018 @ 2:11pm | ! Report

                I suppose it’s only really an issue because State of Origin selected players are not available to play for their clubs on the weekend before an origin game, with the exception being a late replacement. If Origin was standalone it wouldn’t be an issue because a player would need to serve a suspension in their next game, whether that be origin or club.
                What then of the player on the fringes of State of Origin selection who picks up a 2 game suspension just before origin is announced. Can origin be claimed as one of those games, even though he was no certainty to be picked, allowing him to come back from suspension a week earlier?

            • May 28th 2018 @ 4:18pm
              Greg said | May 28th 2018 @ 4:18pm | ! Report

              They should just change the rule and make rep games worth 150 demerit points. So if Scott has 100 points he can play Origin but has to miss the next club game after it.

      • May 28th 2018 @ 6:05pm
        KenoathCarnt said | May 28th 2018 @ 6:05pm | ! Report

        DCE or Ash Taylor should have got a go instead of Hunt.

    • Roar Guru

      May 28th 2018 @ 10:22am
      spruce moose said | May 28th 2018 @ 10:22am | ! Report

      Morgan is lucky to make it. He’s disturbingly out of form.

      • Roar Guru

        May 28th 2018 @ 10:32am
        Dutski said | May 28th 2018 @ 10:32am | ! Report

        Agree Spruce. And while I love Cooper and his ability to hit holes, he’s not in the best of form either.
        My big question is where is the go forward coming from. Napa is not known for busting the line. Maguire is on one leg… Kaufusi and Cooper don’t shirk the tough stuff but are better suited punching through the line out wide. That puts a lot on Wallace and the outside backs. It also means Papalii comes in as a battering ram earlier, onceNapa has seen off the early exchanges.

        • Roar Pro

          May 28th 2018 @ 1:10pm
          Jason Andrews said | May 28th 2018 @ 1:10pm | ! Report

          Morgan looked off key the on Friday night and hasn’t really gelled all season. It will be interesting exactly what this team can produce come next week in Melbourne

      • May 28th 2018 @ 10:34am
        Jarryd said | May 28th 2018 @ 10:34am | ! Report

        Last few games Morgan has been a lot better. He’s still playing on one leg though.

        • May 28th 2018 @ 11:42am
          Jed Clampit said | May 28th 2018 @ 11:42am | ! Report

          What is form , and when do you get in it ?
          These guys will rise when they put that jumper on.
          NSW are very far from changing the tide.

      • Roar Guru

        May 28th 2018 @ 1:57pm
        Matt H said | May 28th 2018 @ 1:57pm | ! Report

        I think once they picked Hunt at number 7, Morgan was a lock on the bench. If DCE had been picked, then Hunt would have been an option off the bench, but DCE is no bench player, Milford is not the answer and Ponga is a bit green.

    • Roar Guru

      May 28th 2018 @ 10:30am
      BA Sports said | May 28th 2018 @ 10:30am | ! Report

      Because it is Origin and form from 12 months ago illogically matters (for some reason), I guess you have to pick Gagai. But Oates is in form and if you were picking a clubs side based on form over the last month, Oates would be picked along way ahead of Gagai.

      • May 28th 2018 @ 10:34am
        DP Schaefer said | May 28th 2018 @ 10:34am | ! Report

        Or Oates ahead of Morgan who – as Spruce Moose noted is way out form (and carrying performance reducing injury from what I saw Friday).

      • Roar Guru

        May 28th 2018 @ 10:40am
        Emcie said | May 28th 2018 @ 10:40am | ! Report

        Gagai plays on the opposite wing. Oates would’ve been up against Holmes and Boyd

      • Roar Rookie

        May 28th 2018 @ 10:46am
        Joe said | May 28th 2018 @ 10:46am | ! Report

        I thought they needed Oates because of the metres he gets. Considering the size of their forward pack they need some of their backs to make hard yards and out of all those outside backs available Oates is by far the standout metre eater. Safe under the high ball and also a good kick target. He has been playing his best football in the last couple of weeks and would be the in form winger.

        • Roar Guru

          May 28th 2018 @ 11:23am
          Emcie said | May 28th 2018 @ 11:23am | ! Report

          Oates up against JAC would be a worry though, he just doesn’t have the acceleration or turning circle to deal with that kind of speed

          • Roar Rookie

            May 28th 2018 @ 11:35am
            Joe said | May 28th 2018 @ 11:35am | ! Report

            Agree although that works the other way too…JAC against Oates under the high ball would also be a big advantage Qld…just see what Feldt did on the weekend. Also Ferguson last year had similar success against JAC.

            • May 28th 2018 @ 11:40am
              jimmmy said | May 28th 2018 @ 11:40am | ! Report

              I did lean towards Oates at the end too Joe. For the same reasons as you,
              but really it is a six of one situation.
              Holmes is classier and faster so I can live with it.

          • Roar Rookie

            May 28th 2018 @ 11:38am
            Joe said | May 28th 2018 @ 11:38am | ! Report

            Actually I think it would be Oates up against Tom T.

            • Roar Guru

              May 28th 2018 @ 11:47am
              Emcie said | May 28th 2018 @ 11:47am | ! Report

              how so?

          • Roar Guru

            May 28th 2018 @ 12:12pm
            Michael Keeffe said | May 28th 2018 @ 12:12pm | ! Report

            Oates and JAC play on opposite sides of the field. They are both left wingers.

            As it is JAC will mark up against Gagai and Holmes will mark up against Tommy Turbo

            • Roar Guru

              May 28th 2018 @ 1:00pm
              Emcie said | May 28th 2018 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

              So they’ve got Roberts and Mitchell both playing on the opposite side they’re used to? I was basing JAC being against Oates on the leak with him outside Robberts

              • May 28th 2018 @ 4:17pm
                Albo said | May 28th 2018 @ 4:17pm | ! Report

                Doesn’t Roberts play right centre and Mitchell left centre ? So you would have Roberts & JAC on the NSW right against Inglis & Holmes , and Mitchell & Turbo against Chambers & Gagai ?

              • Roar Guru

                May 28th 2018 @ 6:22pm
                Emcie said | May 28th 2018 @ 6:22pm | ! Report

                That’s what I assumed it meant

      • May 28th 2018 @ 11:37am
        jimmmy said | May 28th 2018 @ 11:37am | ! Report

        It’s never seemed illogical to QLDers. We are different.

        • May 28th 2018 @ 11:42am
          i miss the force said | May 28th 2018 @ 11:42am | ! Report

          are you on the selection panel?

      • May 28th 2018 @ 12:37pm
        Mushi said | May 28th 2018 @ 12:37pm | ! Report

        Bob lidner would never have pulled on a jersey and tried to walk off a broken leg if that was the case.

    • May 28th 2018 @ 10:32am
      kk said | May 28th 2018 @ 10:32am | ! Report

      From #8 to #17 I have the same players in slightly different positions.

      Differ on
      #5 Feldt or Oates instead of Gagai who is no where near the form of last year.

      #7 DCE rather than Hunt who is off the boil and injury prone.

      Morgan’s groin is a worry and would not hesitate to throw the #14 to Milford.

      Kevvie & Co need to get it right at the selection table and select on form.

      Billy is due for a big one and we can expect the impossible.

      • May 28th 2018 @ 10:35am
        Jarryd said | May 28th 2018 @ 10:35am | ! Report

        Gagai was terrible for Newcastle last year as well. He’ll turn up for Origin. Oates in for Holmes.

      • Columnist

        May 28th 2018 @ 10:35am
        AJ Mithen said | May 28th 2018 @ 10:35am | ! Report

        DCE missing out here shows he might have had enough of a chance…

        • Roar Guru

          May 28th 2018 @ 10:43am
          Emcie said | May 28th 2018 @ 10:43am | ! Report

          Hunt’s there because his team is winning, if he doesn’t perform in game 1 he’s not guaranteed to keep his spot for the whole series

      • Roar Rookie

        May 28th 2018 @ 10:49am
        Joe said | May 28th 2018 @ 10:49am | ! Report

        Agree with you KK. I would have had Oates and DCE as well and no Morgan although I would have Ponga on the bench.. Hunt was injured in the last game and Morgan is also carrying an injury and Gagai is out of form. If I were to choose whether to take Gagai or Oates in a team right now I’d pick Oates.

        • Roar Guru

          May 28th 2018 @ 1:59pm
          Matt H said | May 28th 2018 @ 1:59pm | ! Report

          I think Gagai does better in Origin where he is one the wing with a very simple job to do.

      • May 28th 2018 @ 11:01am
        Jewboy said | May 28th 2018 @ 11:01am | ! Report

        Yep Emcie….agree with you with Hunt ,still got my doubts …..looks good in a hot St.George side with a go forward pack and Widop beside him but SOO is a different beast.
        Also agree with DCE….has more to offer.
        Still not convinced with McCullough as hooker….great club player…..but again SOO is a different level.

        • May 28th 2018 @ 12:48pm
          DP Schaefer said | May 28th 2018 @ 12:48pm | ! Report

          And DCE can kick. Better than Homes I imagine, even with his howler the other week

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