To be 100% truthful, bar injury or perhaps a spot or two, the Queensland Origin side largely selects itself.

Munster, Grant, Carrigan, Cherry-Evans, Hammer, Holmes.

The only real potential selection headache came in the form of the potential Reece Walsh vs Kalyn Ponga showdown, but injury denied us that fun discussion.

Of course the injury to Tino Fa'asuamaleaui opens up spot which will be hotly debated, while the Sua vs Fifita ledge edge chat is growing.

In the main though, you know what you're going to get with our neighbours to the north.

Walsh, Munster, Cherry-Evans and Hunt/Grant will be named, with the others, Hunt and Grant coming off the bench.

Unless between now and then, there is an injury.

What happens if that injury does occur? Or, and hopefully, this is a debate we can have, the Queenslanders lose the first two games and surrender the shield?

Do Queensland look to the future?

He may not be playing like it but Daly Cherry-Evans is 35 year's of age. Ben Hunt is 34.

It is something that had the group chat talking. Who is the next man up for Queensland should something happen?

For a few seasons now it looked certain to be Tom Dearden. He has been brilliant for the Cowboys and made his Origin debut back in 2022.

Then Ezra Mam looked set for the role.

Full cards on the table, I had originally planned this to be an argument for Mam being next to go, but then Sam Walker had a 10/10 performance on Anzac Day.

So, let's look at the three options. Who would be your 'next man up' for the Maroons?

For the purpose of this, we're removing Ben Hunt from the discussion. If DCE or Munster were go to down, of course Hunt would shift for a decider, but we'll assume QLD are looking for their next half rather than a temp fix.

Tom Dearden:

The Cowboys number six could be picked for Queensland's Game One side and you know he would do the job. At either six or seven.

Although he plays six at the Cowboys, he is their premier playmaker and could revert back to seven in a heartbeat.

Ironically, Dearden has found himself in the same position as DCE earlier in his career. Stuck behind a generational halfback.

Cherry-Evans had to bide his time until Johnathan Thurston retired and now it looks like Dearden will have to follow a similar path.

At only 23 year's of age, there is no rush. Not that Dearden couldn't make the permanent step up now.

Don't let the Cowboys indifferent start to the season fool you. Dearden has been one of their better players all season.

The club has re-signed him to a monster, long-term deal and will base their side around him for the forseable future.

With good reason.

Recently the Cowboys travelled to PointsBet Stadium to play the Sharks. Only two players worried me that afternoon; old boy Val Holmes and Tom Dearden.

Cronulla bossed the Cowboys for the majority of the first half. All except a clean linebreak from Dearden.

He was the most threatening Cowboy on the park. Usually always is.

He's Origin quality and I fully expect him to be named in the squad and perhaps even fulfil 18th man duties come Origin One.

The biggest advantage he holds over all his other counterparts is the ability to play six or seven.

Ezra Mam:

Ezra Mam was a Nathan Cleary solo try away from standing here today as both a premiership-winning player and a Clive Churchill Medalist.

His Grand Final performance was nothing short of stunning. A hat-trick of tries and one of the most blistering 10-minute bursts you will ever see.

Cleary produced perhaps the best 20 minutes of rugby league of all time, which led to Mam's efforts almost being lost to time.

On the literal biggest stage of them all, he was flawless. Broke the game open. By all rights, Mam ended the Panthers dynasty ... until ... Nathan Cleary.

Mam's best football this season came when Adam Reynolds was out injured. He took an ownership role and was the star of the show.

His club partnership with Reece Walsh also can't be understated.

They play so well together! No matter how talented the player, that understanding cannot be learned in a 10-day Origin camp.

Up until this past weekend's round of football, I had planned to make this piece a crowning of Mam as the next man up for Queensland when DCE finally pulls up stumps.

He has shown in the past few weeks that he can run the show and fill a halfback role. A Munster/Mam partnership is frightening.

I still believe Mam is very much the front runner, but people seem to only remember the last thing to happen and he has fallen back.

It's the 2023 Grand Final all over again.

Sam Walker:

Sam Walker was almost the forgotten man just over a week ago.

Then he produced one of the all-time Anzac Day efforts in guiding the Roosters to 60 points and a huge win over the Dragons.

The stories have followed all week announcing Walker as the heir apparent.

Based on that game, on a massive stage, sure.

Walker's game probably compliments that of Cam Munster better than anyone on here. Perhaps better than anyone full stop.

A traditional halfback, albeit with a dangerous running game, he would absolutely guide the side with his boot and dictate terms.

Let's not forget though that the 21 year-old spent time in NSW Cup last season and started 2024 slowly.

This kid has enormous talent and could very well have a long future in the Maroon jersey, but not yet.

As brilliant as he can be, he is, right now, a distant third to Dearden and Mam.

Verdict: If Cameron Munster were the one to be unavailable, Ezra Mam comes in. I have no doubt. He has jumped Tom Dearden in the pecking order due to his 2024 form and his brilliance in the 2023 Grand Final.

If DCE were to step aside, I think Tom Dearden has the inside run.

Walker had a brilliant Anzac Day and has all the talent in the world, but he has to produce if far more regularly to be in serious Origin contention.

With DCE likely retiring from rep footy before Munster, Tom Dearden is the next man up.