State of Origin - NSW v QLD: Game 2
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 11: Dane Gagai of the Maroons looks on during game two of the 2020 State of Origin series between the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons at ANZ Stadium on November 11, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

After 18 defensive errors across the course of the opening pair of Origin clashes, Maroons veteran Dane Gagai is facing an uphill battle to retain his place for the series decider next Wednesday.

Having been tasked with marking the white-hot Jack Wighton throughout the now tied series, the 31-year-old from Mackay has proven lacklustre without the ball, with the Raiders star dominating during Origin I in the Harbour City.

While the Knight's record at the representative level has provided routine joy for those camped north of the Tweed in years gone by, reports from News Corp claim that in the wake of Queensland's 44-12 poleaxing in Perth, head coach Billy Slater has been left mulling Gagai's role going forward.

Following sterling efforts for both club and state throughout 2022, Cairns-born Cowboy Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow is said to have re-entered Slater's selection frame.

Given Brad Fittler is poised to prefer the versatility and pace of Matt Burton and Jack Wighton as his centres pairing for the all-important clash at Suncorp Stadium, the 20-year-old known affectionately as 'The Hammer' possesses a skillset to both scupper and challenge the opposition duo on both sides of the ball.

Tabuai-Fidow made his Origin debut during the Maroons' Game 3 victory at Cbus Super Stadium last year, crossing the chalk to help his statesmen avoid a whitewash during their 20-18 win.

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Yet, with Gagai racking up 122 running metres and completing more than a baker's dozen of tackles during Newcastle's bludgeoning of the near-lifeless Titans on Friday night, the wily veteran has played a composed hand ahead of time.

Though both Selwyn Cobbo and Murray Taulagi were found wanting under the high-ball across the Nullarbor late last month, News Corp reports suggest that Slater is willing to stick with the youthful pairing and offer each a high-stakes shot at redemption.

Injuries, illnesses and Felise Kaufusi's indefinite leave have also had the Melbourne Storm legend reaching for the Panadol, with Cameron Munster, Kalyn Ponga and Reece Walsh struck down with respective shoulder, concussion and COVID complaints.

Kick-off in the final 'State v State, Mate v Mate' battle of the year is scheduled for 8:00pm (AEST) on Monday July 13.