Billy Slater has confirmed a mostly expected State of Origin squad for the series opener to be played in Sydney, but that doesn't mean there were still some intriguing selections to make.

From replacing Cameron Munster, to making an enormous call in the forwards and attempting to balance out his interchange bench for the contest, Slater's selections have raised a few eyebrows.

Slater has raised eyebrows before though and so far has a perfect State of Origin record, making it incredibly tough to question what he is doing.

Here are the key talking points from the Maroons' squad for the series opener.

» NSW Game 1 squad
» QLD Game 1 squad

Fifita out, Nanai in

The biggest call Billy Slater has made is to drop David Fifita, with Jeremiah Nanai and Jaydn Su'A to start in the second-rower.

Maybe more intriguing was the call to not have a specialist second-rower on the bench, but more on this shortly.

Su'A undoubtedly has been in form which demanded a recall to the Origin side, but Nanai over Fifita is an intriguing one - and one many won't agree with.

Nanai is well noted as an attacking master, but his defence leaves plenty to be desired. Despite that, Slater said during his media conference on Monday morning that Fifita simply hasn't been playing at the same level he was at last year.

That saw him ultimately cut from the Maroons' side to take on the Blues in Sydney, and while he could fight his way back in during the series with more performances like the one he put together on Sunday against the Brisbane Broncos, he is now starting from the outside looking in.

Whether it's the right decision to drop one of the game's most dangerous players truly does remain to be seen.

Is the bench too small?

One of the bigger calls Slater made was the one which has put Selwyn Cobbo on the Queensland bench.

Instead of lining up on the wing, he joins a bench which features specialist hooker Harry Grant, and middle forwards in Moeaki Fotuaika and J'maine Hopgood, who debuts after 18 months of impressive form at the Parramatta Eels.

But is that too small?

No specialist second-rower, but instead, a hooker (who will interchange with a half in Ben Hunt starting at hooker and could cover the backline because of it), two forwards and a specialist back.

Billy Slater confirmed part of the reason Cobbo was picked was down to the backline injuries Queensland have experienced in the last two years, and it's hard to argue given they have been left short-handed at times.

But without injuries, it's tough to see what role Cobbo plays, and therefore this could well end up in the New South Wales school of using your utility terribly.

Queensland have generally used utilities very well, but this will be Slater's toughest test yet without injury.

Dearden over Mam

The other major call Billy Slater was forced into making - unlike the other two we have just spoken about which were unforced - was the injury to Cameron Munster forcing a new five-eighth option.

That came down to Thomas Dearden and Ezra Mam.

NRL Rd 2 - Cowboys v Raiders

Dearden has won the race for the jersey, and maybe understandably so.

He has runs - albeit only a single game - on the board at Origin level, while Mam is yet to feature at this level. He is also without a doubt the stronger defender and has frankly been in great form over the last couple of weeks.

But that doesn't mean his game will fit playing alongside Daly Cherry-Evans.

His Origin debut in Game 3 of the 2022 series certainly worked alongside the state captain, but it doesn't mean over a three-game series the Blues won't be able to figure this out defensively.

That's where Mam may have come in.

As raw as he is, he lit up the 2023 NRL Grand Final and could have done the same to this year's Origin series, allowed to play freely while alongside Cherry-Evans in a halves combination.

It was a genuine toss up, so hard to suggest Slater is in the wrong, but there is the chance this move backfires.

Is Murray Taulagi the right option?

We have already discussed Selwyn Cobbo's interchange position, but the other trade off of that was the addition of Murray Taulagi on the wing.

The North Queensland Cowboys' star hasn't let the Maroons down before in his State of Origin efforts, but he is arguably in as poor form as he has been for a number of years.

Taulagi's form of course wasn't helped by an injury which has limited him to just eight games so far this year after he missed Rounds 7 through to 10.

Queensland Maroons Training Session

To this point in the season, Taulagi has only found his way over the try line three times, but has been very strong in other areas adding four assists, 24 tackle busts, 8 line breaks and 164 metres per game.

The issue there of course is that Cobbo simply isn't in form that could be labelled anything other than outstanding, with the Broncos' now centre putting on a number of excellent performances over the first three months of the 2024 campaign.

It was probably a toss up between the duo, with Slater winding up finding room for both in the squad.