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Slater recalls veteran trio as young guns put pressure on incumbent stars after Maroons name early Origin squad

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2nd February, 2024
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Veteran Queensland trio Felise Kaufusi, Dane Gagai and Kurt Capewell have been included in a 34-man Maroons squad that will meet in Brisbane to begin preparations for their State of Origin defence.

Kaufusi, 31, was suspended ahead of last year’s series opener to scupper his chances of taking part.

Capewell, 30, was overlooked by coach Billy Slater, despite his versatility across nine Origin games for Queensland.

Gagai, now 33, was another controversial omission from Slater’s side after playing 22 consecutive Origin games.

Their cards haven’t been marked though, with the trio among a stacked squad that also included Sydney Roosters young gun Sam Walker and Brisbane ace Ezra Mam, who will pressure Tom Dearden in the battle to be the next half once long-time captain Daly Cherry-Evans hangs up the boots.

Parramatta forward J’maine Hopgood and North Queensland back-rower Heilum Luki have also been included for the two-day camp, which will include logistics, junior clinics and a healthy dose of Queensland spirit.

Concussion concerns kept Kalyn Ponga out of the State of Origin arena last season, but he had a storming finish to the NRL season and is part of the squad in what shapes as a juicy battle for the No.1 jersey with incumbent Reece Walsh.

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“It’s a great opportunity for us to get our Queensland players together before the season starts,” Slater said.

“Obviously the (NRL) training schedule in preparation for their season is quite tight, so to get them for this weekend is really important for their preparation into our series.

Tom Dearden runs the ball for Queensland

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

“We get to touch on a few things footy-wise, but more importantly we get our players into our community.

“Both our players and the community will get a really big lift from the experience.”

QUEENSLAND SQUAD: Jai Arrow, AJ Brimson, Kurt Capewell, Pat Carrigan, Daly Cherry-Evans, Xavier Coates, Selwyn Cobbo, Lindsay Collins, Reuben Cotter, Tom Dearden, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Beau Fermor, David Fifita, Thomas Flegler, Moeaki Fotuaika, Dane Gagai, Tom Gilbert, Harry Grant, Valentine Holmes, J’maine Hopgood, Corey Horsburgh, Ben Hunt, Felise Kaufusi, Heilum Luki, Ezra Mam, Cameron Munster, Jeremiah Nanai, Corey Oates, Kalyn Ponga, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Murray Taulagi, Sam Walker, Reece Walsh, Christian Welch.

© AAP

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