BY CURTIS WOODWARD
It appears the once mighty Queenslanders need all the help they can get putting a side together for State of Origin I on June 5th in Brisbane. The recent retirements of some of the game’s biggest names and a few injuries has sent panic right across the sunshine state.
Okay so it may not be that bad but let’s give them a hand, anyway.
Do the Maroons go with experience and old heads like Matt Scott or do they unleash young tyros David Fififta and Joe Ofahengaue?
Who should play halfback?
Should Ben Hunt play hooker or shift back to 7 if Daly Cherry-Evans isn’t fit?
What do you do with their middle forwards?
My Maroons 17
Fullback: Kalyn Ponga
Second man picked in the side behind Cameron Munster. What a player Kalyn Ponga is. He could single-handedly win QLD the series with a couple of big games.
Wingers: Corey Oates and Phillip Sami
Oates is a machine and his kick returns are vital to QLD gaining immediate momentum in attack. I’ve also gone for a real bolter in Gold Coast young gun Phillip Sami. He has been really good for the Titans and can cover several positions if needed.
Centres: Will Chambers and Dane Gagai
A couple of old heads to stabilize the edges of the ruck for the Maroons.
Five-Eigth: Cameron Munster
The thought of Munster and Ponga causing havoc must worry the Blues. Munster has quickly evolved into one of the premier rugby league players in the world. Not my captain, though.
Halfback: Brodie Croft
Another bolter and I’m picking him for two reasons. Firstly, I think QLD are still more dangerous with Ben Hunt at dummy half than filling in for an injured DCE in the halves. Secondly, Croft already plays with Munster at the Storm. It makes sense to me.
Middle thirds: Josh Papalii, Josh McGuire and Jai Arrow
This is a pretty good starting engine room for the Queenslanders. Papalii and McGuire have done it all before and will do whatever they have to in the middle of the ruck. Arrow is developing quickly.
Second row: Felise Kaufusi and Matt Gillett
Proven performers and they pick themselves. I’m also making Gillett my skipper. He deserves it.
Bench: David Fifita, Joe Ofahengaue, Jarrod Wallace, Michael Morgan
I’ve purposely gone with a smaller pack for the opening twenty-odd minutes in Game I on a dry track in Brisbane to move the Blues around. With Fifita and Ofahengaue on the bench, you can then send them on to rip straight back through the guts of NSW. Wallace is a like-for-like with the starting middle thirds while I’ve gone Michael Morgan to cover basically any position apart from front row. Hasn’t been in very good form at the Cowboys but can make a difference late in each half.
18th Man: Rhyse Martin