BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 03: Andrew McCullough of the Broncos passes the ball during the round nine NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Canterbury Bulldogs at Suncorp Stadium on May 3, 2018 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

With the shock retirement of influential Queensland and Australian skipper Cameron Smith leaving a massive void for coach Kevin Walters to fill with just three weeks before State of Origin Game I – the coaching staff at the top of the border have a lot of head scratching to do to replace the greatest of all time.

Today, we run the rule over the top three candidates to replace the irreplaceable. In all reality though, there is only one viable option and that man is already 225 first grade games into his career without tasting representative football as of yet.

Jake Granville

May have been first in line had he not been in such a form slump to start the 2018 season, the attacking pocket rocket Jake Granville is still a viable option for Queensland should he be called upon for the upcoming State of Origin series.

Having been an instrumental figure in the Cowboys’ run to two grand final appearances over the last four NRL seasons, Granville has cemented himself as the greatest hooker in the club’s near 25-year history usurping fan favourite Aaron Payne.

His current form and ability to play the full 80-minutes heavily outweighs him however and with there being no room for two hookers in the one side at State of Origin level, it’s likely Granville will miss out.

Jake Friend

Another classy number nine currently in the midst of a form slump, Jake Friend last tasted representative football in 2016 when he represented Australia at the highest level of the game.

The 28-year-old won his first premiership in 2013 and has gone on to cement his standing as one of the top dummy-halves in the world since. Known for his attacking flair around the ruck and high work rate in defence, Friend is another option who won’t let Queensland down.

It’s been debated over the last several months if age has finally caught up on the 215-game NRL veteran with the former Australian number nine struggling for form and even costing his side a few decisive victories thus far in season 2018.

Andrew McCullough

After 225 games at the top level, Andrew McCullough’s time has come. Queensland coach Kevin Walters has no choice but to pick the Brisbane rake who has been a very good player for a very long time.

Former Cowboys hooker Aaron Payne was once touted as the most unlucky player to have never tasted State of Origin football – thanks to Cameron Smith – with Andrew McCullough the next potential victim of this curse had Smith not pulled the plug on a 16-year representative career.

At this stage, Walters can ill afford to not select McCullough at starting dummy-half as the most inform option of the trio.

Other option: A curveball Walters could throw into the mix would be shifting Ben Hunt to hooker with one of Michael Morgan or Daly Cherry-Evans partnering Cameron Munster in the halves.

Unlikely: Moses Mbye

Queensland’s Best 17

  1. Billy Slater (Melbourne Storm)
  2. Corey Oates (Brisbane Broncos)
  3. Greg Inglis (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
  4. Will Chambers (Melbourne Storm)
  5. Valentine Holmes (Cronulla Sharks)
  6. Cameron Munster (Melbourne Storm)
  7. Ben Hunt (St. George Illawarra Dragons)
  8. Josh McGuire (Brisbane Broncos)
  9. Andrew McCullough (Brisbane Broncos)
  10. Dylan Napa (Sydney Roosters)
  11. Josh Papalii (Canberra Raiders)
  12. Matt Gillett (Brisbane Broncos)
  13. Jai Arrow (Gold Coast Titans)
  14. Michael Morgan (North Queensland Cowboys)
  15. Coen Hess (North Queensland Cowboys)
  16. Jarrod Wallace (Gold Coast Titans)
  17. Felise Kaufusi (Melbourne Storm)


  1. Gavin Cooper (North Queensland Cowboys)
  2. Kalyn Ponga (Newcastle Knights)
  3. Dane Gagai (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
  4. Jake Friend (Sydney Roosters)
  5. Matthew Scott (North Queensland Cowboys)
  6. Darius Boyd (Brisbane Broncos)
  7. Jake Granville (North Queensland Cowboys)
  8. Daly Cherry-Evans (Manly Sea Eagles)

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