It is impossible to put into words the disappointment I felt at the conclusion of Game 1.
A once-in-a-lifetime game in Townsville, a town that has produced so many legends for Queensland, was ruined by the poor form of the Maroons, who looked like more like a struggling club side than a representative team full of the sunshine state’s most impressive players.
While several players tried their hardest to bring Queensland back into the game, there were many who gave performances with no real value. Here are the changes Queensland should make to be victorious in Game 2.
I love Valentine Holmes, and his passion was clear in his performance, but a stronger fullback is needed to provide a strong attacking threat. AJ Brimson was wasted off the bench in Game 1, playing a measly 16 minutes and making only five running metres. If Kalyn Ponga is unable to play in Brisbane, Brimson should without a doubt reclaim the number one jersey.
Predicted fullback: AJ Brimson
Alternative option: Valentine Holmes
It is hard to find an argument as to why Kyle Feldt and Xavier Coates should be retained. Both were completely outplayed by their opposite numbers, and unless they have terrific form in clubland, they will be under enormous pressure to retain their spots.
If Brimson plays fullback, Val Holmes will go straight back to the wing, where he has played so well in series past. There are several options for the other wing spot.
I find it highly likely Xavier Coates will be retained, despite his poor effort in Townsville. Phillip Sami was solid in Games 1 and 2 last year and will come into contention again. A potential bolter is Cowboys winger Murray Taulagi. He has displayed a remarkable level of skill this year, scoring nine tries in ten games, including a hat trick against the Knights in Round 11.
Predicted wingers: Valentine Holmes, Xavier Coates
Alternative options: Phillip Sami, Murray Taulagi
This is a real worry for Queensland. Dane Gagai was not at his best, and Kurt Capewell was outplayed by Tom Trbojevic. Gagai has proven time and time again that he can be a game changer for Queensland and will be retained. Kurt Capewell will 100 per cent be in the squad, but he is currently playing out of position and may be better suited to coming off the bench as an impact player.
The main thing standing in the way of this is the lack of depth Queensland has in the centres. Brimson could potentially go into the centres if Ponga is right to play, or the selectors could look to former Maroons Will Chambers and Justin O’Neill, or the Knights’ Kurt Mann. All three of these players have played a good deal of their careers at centre and have been in decent form at the moment.
A real left-field option that I would both love and hate to see is the return of Karmichael Hunt. He has only recently come back into rugby league after time in the AFL and rugby union, but he has the big-game experience of being a dual-code international. This is a highly unlikely scenario, but one that would certainly add a new layer to the series.
Predicted centres: Dane Gagai, Kurt Capewell
Alternative options: Will Chambers, Justin O’Neill, Kurt Mann, Karmichael Hunt
This one is easy. Cam Munster and Daly Cherry-Evans should remain halves partners. Simple.
The loss of Christian Welch to a HIA early in the match did not help the Maroons. He is such an important player in that side, especially with his kicking pressure on Nathan Cleary. If he is fit, he should keep his spot in the side.
Josh Papalii will come straight back in as well. He is one of the Maroons’ most experienced players and will bring the passion that Origin is known for. If Christian Welch is not fit, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui or Moeaki Fotuaika should take his place. Fotuaika was without a doubt Queensland’s best player in Game 1 and deserves a starting spot.
Predicted props: Christian Welch, Josh Papalii
Alternative options: Moeaki Fotuaika, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui
Harry Grant played well considering he had been out injured for several weeks. He should retain his spot, especially with Reed Mahoney out with a shoulder injury. All Grant needs is back-up on the bench.
Predicted hooker: Harry Grant
Felise Kaufusi and David Fifita played well below their best, but we all know what they are capable of, so they will without a doubt retain their spots. The only other person who may come into contention is Kurt Capewell if he is moved out of the centres.
Predicted second-rowers: Felise Kaufusi, David Fifita
Jai Arrow was below average in Game 1 and is in real danger of losing his spot, especially with the return of Papalii. If I were the selectors, I would move Tino Fa’asuamaleaui to lock, and push Arrow to the bench or potentially out of the side altogether.
Predicted lock: Tino Fa’asuamaleaui
The bench were poor in Game 1, with the exception of Moe Fotuaika. AJ Brimson will likely move to fullback, opening up the bench utility spot.
While Ben Hunt is the obvious choice, the possibility of Kurt Mann coming onto the bench is intriguing. He has played every back-line position over his career and played well at hooker when he filled in for the injured Jayden Brailey last year. Despite this, I believe Paul Green will go with Hunt, who was solid in last year’s series.
In terms of bench forwards, Joe Ofahengaue should lose his spot. He only just made the Game 1 team, and with the return of Papalii will be pushed out of the side. Fotuaika will keep his bench spot, providing Welch plays.
Jaydn Su’A could potentially lose his spot to Capewell or Coen Hess, who can play on the edge or in the middle, was in the extended squad for Game 1 and has been in fine form for the Cowboys.
Predicted bench: Ben Hunt, Jaydn Su’A, Moeaki Fotuaika, Coen Hess
1. AJ Brimson
2. Xavier Coates
3. Kurt Capewell
4. Dane Gagai
5. Valentine Holmes
6. Cameron Munster
7. Daly Cherry-Evans
8. Christian Welch
9. Harry Grant
10. Josh Papalii
11. Felise Kaufusi
12. David Fifita
13. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui
14. Ben Hunt
15. Jaydn Su’A
16. Moeaki Fotuaika
17. Coen Hess
18. Kurt Mann