It’s nearly that time of year again, where the club jerseys are put away and replaced by the iconic Maroon and Blue colours of the respective states.
This will be a tough series for Queensland. After the disappointment of 2018 and the subsequent retirements of five of the greatest players that will ever pull on a Queensland jersey, it doesn’t get any easier.
Queensland are the underdogs this year and it is up for the 2019 team to prevent a Blues dynasty that could match our legendary eight straight before it even begins.
For the Maroons to bring the fight back to the Blues and make this series one for the ages, this is the squad that Kevin Walters must pick.
Fullback: Kalyn Ponga (Knights)
Had Valentine Holmes not gone to the USA to pursue a career in the NFL, perhaps this position could’ve been up for debate but alas, the position is Ponga’s to create a legacy.
He has displayed what he can do at Origin level in his stellar debut in Game 2 last year and his stunning club form at fullback have further cemented his claim. The things he can do in attack will cause nightmares for the NSW defence.
Winger: Corey Oates (Broncos)
The Maroons could do no better than to give the first spot on the wing to the most prolific winger in 2019 so far, Corey Oates.
Built like a second rower and as well as having a knack for finding the tryline, Oates is skilled in making plenty of metres, averaging just over 160m per game in 2019.
Centre: Will Chambers (Storm)
Despite some youthful talent in the backline, with the retirement of Greg Inglis, Queensland desperately needs the experience Will Chambers provides. While not captain of the team, Chambers needs to step up as one of the leaders.
Centre: Michael Morgan (Cowboys)
Michael Morgan can play just about anywhere on the field and has proven this by being a regular utility option off the bench since his Origin debut in 2015.
Morgan has played in the centres for Queensland before and is the best choice to do it again. It should be noted that is Cherry-Evans is unfit for Game 1, then Morgan should play at halfback and as captain.
Wing: Dane Gagai (Rabbitohs)
One of the lock-ins for the Maroons, the 2017 Wally Lewis medallist Dane Gagai has performed well for a winning Rabbitohs side and can once again bring his A-game for the Maroons. He always seems to rise to another level for Queensland and has the ability to do it again.
Five-Eighth: Cameron Munster (Storm)
So far leading the Dally M leaderboard in 2019, Cameron Munster has been Melbourne’s best player throughout the first 10 rounds.
One of the better players in Queensland’s 2018 series, Munster will have a point to prove this time around to assert his dominance as one of the top Five-Eighths in the game.
Halfback: Daly Cherry-Evans (c) (Sea-Eagles)
In the words of the 1997 film ‘Hercules’, Daly Cherry-Evans has turned from ‘zero to hero, just like that’ in the eyes of the Maroons.
Arguably the best player on the field in Queensland’s solitary victory in Game 3, Cherry-Evans will be out to prove he is the man to lead the Maroons to victory as their skipper and halfback after his exile from the team.
Prop: Josh Papalii (Raiders)
Josh Papalii has been one of the best for the Raiders in 2019 and has proven his ability to convert his club form to the Origin stage.
Averaging over 130 metres per game for the Raiders, Papalii can provide some heavy ammunition in the Maroons camp at the start of the game. His heart and toughness will cause problems for the Blues whenever he is on the field.
Hooker: Ben Hunt (Dragons)
At first Jake Friend seemed a lock in for an Origin debut until he injured himself in what was arguably his best performance of the season against the Dragons.
Who’s next? Andrew McCullough? A player who was deemed Cameron Smith’s successor in the 9 jersey, McCullough failed to impress in last year’s series, being completely outdone by Damien Cook but now he’s also injured.
Who does Queensland turn to? None other than Ben Hunt of course. Hunt played 50 minutes out of dummy half coming off the bench in Game 3 last series and managed to play his best game of a tough series for him. He has the ability to be quick off the play the ball and cause problems for the Blues similar to Cook last series.
Prop: Jai Arrow (Titans)
Jai Arrow has been the Titans best forward and arguably their best player in 2019, if it wasn’t for McGuire (who may be deemed unfit but very unlikely), would be picked in his club position of lock.
After losing the series after Game 2 last year, Queensland decided to bring Arrow off the bench and start him in the front row with Papalii. The Maroons ended up winning the dead rubber and Arrow was impressive starting at Prop.
Second Row: Matt Gillett (Broncos)
Essentially missed the entirety of the 2018 season due to injury, including Origin, Matt Gillett will be out with a point to prove.
While Gavin Cooper was good for the Maroons last series, there is a reason why Gillett was regarded as the best second rower in the NRL before 2018. He also provides much needed Origin experience for this relatively rookie side.
Second Row: Felise Kaufusi (Storm)
Felise Kaufusi was one of our better players last series in a losing effort and has been impressive for the Storm throughout the start of 2019.
Kaufusi is averaging more metres than he did for the Storm last season, which earned him a Maroons debut and is another lock in for 2019. He and Gillett will provide a strong second row to going against the Blues.
Lock: Josh McGuire (Cowboys)
Another experienced forward for the Maroons, Josh McGuire has been impressive for the Cowboys in 2019, averaging nearly 50m per game more than his 2018 season with the Broncos.
Queensland need someone to bring the fight back to the Blues this series and Josh McGuire is that someone.
Bench Utility: Anthony Milford (Broncos)
Anthony Milford receives a heap of criticism for his inconsistency over the past four seasons but he has arguably been one of the best for his club in 2019 and while he shouldn’t be the five-eighth ahead of Munster, Milford is a ready-made utility.
If Walters brings him on at the right times of the game, he can provide a spark that will cause nightmares for a tiring NSW defence as the match goes on.
Bench: Dylan Napa (Bulldogs)
This spot was a real flip of a coin between Jarrod Wallace and Dylan Napa. If the spot was a starting front row position, Wallace would probably take it but off the bench, we need a front rower than can make an impact immediately and I believe Dylan Napa is the man for the job. Like McGuire, when on the field Napa can and will need to bring the fight to NSW.
Bench: Joe Ofahengaue (Broncos)
Joe Ofahengaue, while being overshadowed by Payne Haas for the Broncos, has been impressive for the Broncos throughout the 2018 season and has managed to maintain this form in 2019 coming off the bench supporting Lodge and Haas.
He has consistently made over 100 metres per game for the Broncos, only not doing so on two occasions and even cracking the 200-metre mark not so long ago off the bench no less. Queensland need a player like this coming off the bench this series to support the starting players and Ofahengaue is the best choice.
Bench: David Fifita (Broncos)
David Fifita has been a revelation for the Broncos ever since his debut last season and is a superstar of the future. Not only does Queensland need to bring in young players for the future of the side, Fifita’s club form has shown he is capable of playing Origin.
He can also play numerous positions in the forwards and could even play in the centres (though unlikely) if needed.