The Queenslanders based their selections during the dynasty on loyalty.
Sometimes the player may have not been in the greatest form for their club, but would still get picked and they’d pick up five gears for their state. Ninety-nine per cent of the selections were warranted, as they were mostly always big-game players.
Ushering in the new era, Kevin Walters seems to have his favourites and I am here to shut that down and say he must pick the best team possible, not his favourite team.
A lot of legends seem to be blinded as well while they have selected their predicted teams, and seem to name some very strange selections, most notably Joe Ofahengaue.
Big Joe has barely played this shortened season, and has come off the bench in every game he has been a part of. Loyalty is not deemed suitable in this situation, I would think.
Most of the 17 pick themselves, but I wanted to have a crack at picking the 17 I think can best challenge the ever progressive New South Welshmen.
The custodial position has never been in doubt. Kalyn Ponga is Queensland’s number one for as long as he wants it.
On the wings, I would have his sharpest competitor for the fullback role, the returning Val Holmes, and his team-mate and well deserved debutant, Kyle Feldt. He loves the big moment and is a superb finisher.
On the right side, I would be picking the right-side specialist in centre, Dane Gagai. And unwillingly, I would still select Michael Morgan on the left position, as the Queenslanders really lack depth in the centre position.
The halves pick themselves: the incumbent Australian pairing of Cam Munster and Daly Cherry-Evans.
The strength of NSW is easily their depth in the forwards. Queensland don’t have the stars in their pack, but have very willing and unheralded forwards that will go toe to toe with their more popular counterparts.
In the front row, I am picking Josh Papalii and Jai Arrow to pair up in a form of footy they have never lost when they both start in the front row.
Hooking the pack, I would be selecting the most ready debutant you’ll ever have, three-time premiership-winning captain Jake Friend. He is primed for the big time and deserves his spot, after waiting his time behind Cameron Smith.
In the second row I would have the two Tongan back-rowers in David Fifita and Felise Kaufusi.
Locking my pack would be the ever reliable Josh McGuire.
The bench is where I have always had issues with the predicted teams.
The utility role will have hot competition, but I would still roll with Ben Hunt, who played superbly at hooker last year. He deserves a spot for the time being over boom rookie Harry Grant.
Here is where I am completely baffled. How has no one taken notice of the Titans’ best player so far this season, and arguably the best prop this year, Moeaki Fotuaika? He has been superb all season, and is the Titans’ whole engine this season. He is definitely getting a bench spot in my Queensland side.
Next up I would select the guy who debuted in Game 3 last year, and had possibly the best debut in Origin history, Ethan Lowe. Tough, durable and another kicking option off the bench.
For my last bench spot, I am stuck between an Origin veteran and a debutant who deserves his spot. Melbourne Storm’s Christian Welch has been in the pipeline for years, but due to injuries, he has missed his opportunity. He is definitely a strong option – but the presence of a veteran coming off the bench, who was a part of the end of the dynasty, is very enticing.
Rugby convert comeback kid Ben Te’o would be an absolutely enticing option to bring off the bench, purely for his explosiveness and experience.
Players who I would legitimately consider that missed in a very tight tussle are Harry Grant, Coen Hess, Tim Glasby, Jaydn Su’A and Tino Faasuamaleaui. They are all very worthy competition.
Players I would not be considering are Joe Ofahengaue, Moses Mbye, Edrick Lee, Jarrod Wallace and Gavin Cooper.
1. Kalyn Ponga
2. Valentine Holmes
3. Dane Gagai
4. Michael Morgan
5. Kyle Feldt
6. Cameron Munster
7. Daly Cherry-Evans (c)
8. Josh Papalii
9. Jake Friend
10. Jai Arrow
11. Felise Kaufusi
12. David Fifita
13. Josh McGuire
14. Ben Hunt
15. Moeaki Fotuaika
16. Ethan Lowe
17. Ben Te’o (just…)
I strongly believe this team can definitely compete with the New South Welshmen, with a mix of excitement, toughness, experience and skill.
Kevvy, make the right call!