State of Origin just around the corner, we at NRL.com have put our heads together to devise the teams we would select for Holden State of Origin I at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday May 27. Here is our Queensland XXXX Maroons side; the Queensland selectors will name their squad on Tuesday.
1. Billy Slater (Storm)
Just like the majority of his other Queensland teammates, the Melbourne fullback is a shoo-in for the Maroons. But just to remind everyone how good he is, he scored two tries in his first game back from injury last week and made several try-saving tackles. Despite strong challenges, Slater is still the game’s premier custodian.
2. Will Chambers (Storm)
Recently made his Australian Test debut in the centres over likely three-quarters partner Justin Hodges, but such is Mal Meninga’s loyalty, the Melbourne centre will have to make do with a wing spot. His pace and agility has proven more than a handful in the opening rounds of the competition.
3. Justin Hodges (Broncos)
In what will be his swansong Origin series, the Brisbane captain will be up for a huge final three matches with Queensland, especially after being overlooked for the Kangaroos. A veteran of 21 Origin contests, Hodges will prove a handful on the right side of the field.
4. Greg Inglis (Rabbitohs)
Currently struggling a little for form at fullback with the Rabbitohs, it will be interesting to see how Inglis adapts in the centres for his annual few matches in the three-quarters for Queensland. GI generally lifts at Origin level and his record speaks for itself; we think he’ll cause a few headaches again for Blues supporters.
5. Darius Boyd (Broncos)
Will have only played two NRL games before Origin I due to an off-season Achilles injury but is likely to step out for his 22nd appearance in a Queensland jersey. Like Inglis, Boyd is a different proposition in Maroon and his try-scoring feats are legendary.
6. Johnathan Thurston (Cowboys)
The world’s best player picks himself. Hasn’t missed a game since making his debut in the Origin arena in 2005, a streak of 30-consecutive appearances in the Maroon, and that won’t change unless injury strikes.
7. Cooper Cronk (Storm)
The Kangaroos halfback will be looking to make amends from last year’s series and will be in the No.7 jersey ahead of a host of challenges from Daly Cherry-Evans and Ben Hunt.
8. Matt Scott (Cowboys)
One of the best and most consistent props running around in rugby league, the Cowboys hard man is expected to hit the ground running against club teammate James Tamou. So much of what Queensland do is based around Scott’s work in the middle of the field. He rarely gets the plaudits, but Scott is an integral cog in the Maroons juggernaut.
9. Cameron Smith (c) (Storm)
The Australian and Queensland skipper will don the No.9 jumper until the day he calls it quits. He has already stated his intention to play through to the 2017 World Cup, meaning he still has a lot of years left in the Maroons jumper.
10. Nate Myles (Titans)
While many were calling for his head after Australia’s shock loss to the Kiwis, Myles has been one of the Maroons’ consistent performers in recent years and will not miss out on selection. He is the Queensland enforcer and will reprise that role once again.
11. Sam Thaiday (Broncos)
Thaiday responded to a highly publicised demotion to the Brisbane Broncos bench with vigour. Since that time he has been one of the club’s best and deserves his spot in the Maroons pack.
12. Aidan Guerra (Roosters)
Guerra made his comeback from a fractured jaw last week against the Wests Tigers which was enough to justify selection as one of Queensland’s back-rowers. He has a good motor in the middle third of the field and also has good footwork and ability with ball in hand.
13. Corey Parker (Broncos)
The veteran lock is reportedly pondering representative retirement but it won’t happen this year, which spells bad news for New South Wales. He’ll be tireless and relentless in defence, while in attack he’ll swivel and offload at any chance.
14. Daly Cherry-Evans (Sea Eagles)
While plenty are calling for Cowboys five-eighth Michael Morgan or Brisbane halfback Ben Hunt to fill this spot, Cherry-Evans is slowly working his way back to his best and deserves the utility role on the bench.
15. Josh Papalii (Raiders)
A member of Australia’s recent extended squad, the Raiders enforcer has been sharing his time between the front and back row for the Green Machine which makes his versatility a solid prospect for Meninga to draw upon.
16. Josh McGuire (Broncos)
One of the only contentious picks from our selections, the Broncos prop and Samoan international deserves an Origin debut. Unfortunately it comes at the cost of veteran Warrior Jacob Lillyman.
17. Matt Gillett (Broncos)
A little bit hard done by to miss out on a starting spot instead of Guerra, Gillett has proven to be a huge asset for the Maroons in recent years.
18th man: Jacob Lillyman (Warriors)
The unlucky man to miss out of our 17, but deserves to be in the squad as cover in case of injuries to any member of the Maroons pack. Hasn’t let Queensland down in the past and won’t if he is called up on late notice.