I, like many other league fans, have been waiting impatiently for this year’s State of Origin series.
I bought my tickets for Game 1 in Adelaide last December, and I’m overjoyed that the NRL managed to work out the details with the South Australian government for it to be held at Adelaide Oval on November 4.
Here is the Queensland line-up I want to be cheering for in two months’ time.
1. Kalyn Ponga (goalkicker)
2. Kyle Feldt
3. Michael Morgan
4. Dane Gagai
5. Valentine Holmes
6. Cameron Munster
7. Daly Cherry-Evans (captain)
8. Jai Arrow
9. Jake Friend
10. Josh Papalii
11. Felise Kaufusi
12. David Fifita
13. Josh McGuire
14. Kurt Mann
15. Christian Welch
16. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui
17. Patrick Carrigan
Kalyn Ponga is the best of the lot to be Queensland’s custodian. He’s played three Origin games and looked really impressive in Game 1 last year. He’s a step above the rest and if uninjured, will play Origin this year. He is also the best goal-kicking option for Queensland this year apart from Valentine Holmes. The only person who would be close is AJ Brimson. He’s been one of the best fullbacks since his return from injury.
On the wings I’ve gone for a newcomer in Kyle Feldt and the returning Valentine Holmes. Feldt has been unlucky in years past. He was overlooked in favour of Corey Oates last year, but due to the poor form of the Broncos and Feldt’s try-scoring record this season, he should get the nod.
Valentine Holmes is my favourite player in the league. He was brilliant in the Cowboys’ golden-point win over the Dragons and he was the best winger in the 2018 Origin series. I’m backing him to return to form in the Origin arena. He is also an option to kick goals. He was on point versus the Dragons.
I’m not a huge fan of Michael Morgan as a centre, but the Maroons really have no other options. He’s a terrific player usually and we all know he’ll try his hardest, but there is a strong possibility he won’t be fit for the series after his run of injuries this season. In that case I’d back either David Fifita to move into the centres or bring in the Newcastle Knights’ Kurt Mann or Enari Tuala. They have both been terrific this year.
Dane Gagai is definitely one of the first names on the team sheet in Origin. He is always at his best in Origin, and while some will question whether he should be on the wing, he played centre in Game 3, 2018 and was one of Queensland’s best.
Cameron Munster. There’s not much more to say there. He is one of Queensland’s best in every game he plays and is a future Maroons captain.
Daly Cherry-Evans is the incumbent captain so he’ll definitely be in the side. Although Manly are faltering at the back end of the season, he’s still performing well enough to get a spot.
I’ve gone with last year’s Game 1 props Jai Arrow and Josh Papalii. They are two of the best front-rowers in the game and were electric last year. Josh Papalii scored the try that put hope into my heart that we might win last year, and for that he will always be in my Origin squad.
This is the one position where I really wasn’t sure who to put in. I love Harry Grant and he will definitely wear the number nine for Queensland in future, but for this series I went with Jake Friend. He has been stuck behind Cameron Smith for years before missing last year through injury. If fit I expect he’ll be selected, and I’m sure he will take the opportunity with both hands and do the state proud.
Felise Kaufusi is a solid player for Queensland. He scored the opening try of Game 3 last year, and although he hasn’t been at his best this year for the Storm, I expect his form to rise coming into the finals, which he can hopefully bring over to Origin.
David Fifita has been a shining light in a struggling Broncos side. He, Kotoni Staggs and Payne Haas are the only Broncos who truly look dangerous with the ball, and the Titans are very lucky to have him next year. He is a genuine match-winner, which is exactly what Queensland need.
Josh McGuire is a solid player, although his frequent trips to the judiciary are annoying as a Cowboys fan. If he can sharpen up his discipline, he can be one of Queensland’s best.
I’ve gone with Kurt Mann, Christian Welch, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui and Patrick Carrigan on the bench.
Mann has been electric for Newcastle and can play any back-line position, as well as hooker. For this reason he edges out Ben Hunt.
Christian Welch has been at his best for the Storm this year, and should bring his hard-working attitude to Origin.
Big Tino is one of my favourite young forwards. He always looks dangerous with the ball and can play big minutes if required.
Pat Carrigan is a hard-working middle forward who is averaging over 150 metres a game. Queensland need some impact off the bench and I’m confident these guys can do it.
If required, I am confident AJ Brimson would be able to get the job done for Queensland. He is a terrific young player who can break the game open easily. If he plays, I can see him filling a similar role to Kalyn Ponga in Game 2, 2018.