Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow will debut in the centres for Queensland next Wednesday as Paul Green rolls the dice in hope of avoiding a State of Origin clean sweep.
The North Queensland flyer has been selected for Game 3 on July 14, replacing Kurt Capewell in the centres where Tom Trbojevic has run amok for the Blues amid a cumulative 76-6 series scoreline.
Capewell will instead play in his preferred backrow position, while Kalyn Ponga returns at fullback – pushing Valentine Holmes to the wing with Kyle Feldt dropped – and Ben Hunt replaces the axed Andrew McCullough at hooker.
Gold Coast’s edge weapon David Fifita has been named on the bench in an indication he will contest his charge at the judiciary after being sin-binned for dangerous contact on Saturday.
Named 18th man, Francis Molo will likely return to the bench if Fifita’s challenge is unsuccessful.
A fit-again AJ Brimson returns to the No.14 position he filled in Game 1, while Brisbane forward Thomas Flegler and Newcastle utility Kurt Mann could both make shock debuts after being named in the extended squad.
Tabuai-Fidow, 19, has been deployed at fullback and on the wing since debuting for the Cowboys last season.
But he’s made a home at centre this season and, despite battling a lingering ankle issue, is considered one of the fastest players in the NRL.
He’ll need smarts to match that speed though, tasked with smothering the game’s form player Trbojevic.
Trbojevic torched Queensland with a game-one hat-trick and added another try as they clinched the series at Suncorp Stadium, while he has scored 14 tries in just nine games for Manly this season.
The Maroons will head to next Wednesday’s dead-rubber looking to avoid their first 3-0 series whitewash in over two decades, when the Blues won in 2000 by a record 62-point aggregate margin.
Green was unavailable to comment on his selections on Monday, unwilling to speak via Zoom and unable to conduct an in-person press conference under current COVID-19 restrictions.
Open to a return to the job next year after piloting Queensland to a famous underdog win last season, Wayne Bennett earlier said blooding youth was the best policy with the series decided.
“You have to take the opportunity to put these kids under a bit more pressure and find out whether they’re really good,” he said.
“Because when the series starts next year they have a game under them.”
Bennett himself only faced a 0-2 deficit twice in his eight series in charge of the Maroons.
But he made good use of it.
“I remember bringing Cameron Smith in for his first Origin the game after we lost the series (in 2003),” Bennett said of Queensland’s most-capped Origin player.
“We have done that for a long time for Queensland. And they have gone on to be great players for us.”
Queensland team for Game 3: Kalyn Ponga, Valentine Holmes, Dane Gagai, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Xavier Coates, Cameron Munster, Daly Cherry-Evans, Christian Welch, Ben Hunt, Josh Papalii, Kurt Capewell, Felise Kaufusi, Jai Arrow, AJ Brimson. Bench: Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Moeaki Fotuaika, David Fifita, Frank Molo (18th man). Extended squad members: Kurt Mann, Thomas Flegler.