Kevin Walters and his Maroons brains trust have combined to name a vastly different side for their Origin III contest next Wednesday night.
Captain Greg Inglis has been forced out of the contest, and a chance to captain his side on home turf for the first time, and is replaced in the squad by Corey Oates. Oates will move to the wing allowing Dane Gagai to take up his preferred role in the centres.
Billy Slater will captain the side in his final Origin game, a fitting farewell for an absolute legend of the game. He has dominated this arena for almost a decade and I cannot think of a better way to say goodbye, despite the unfortunate circumstances that have lead to it happening.
Elsewhere Tim Glasby has been brought into the side with Dylan Napa moved to 18th man. This likely has more to do with an injury concern to Napa than a loss of form however Napa has struggled to reach the levels expected of him in the opening two games of the series.
The Maroons will run with an all new starting front row with Jai Arrow and Josh Papalii moving into the middle at the expense of Napa (18th man) and Jarrod Wallace, who has been benched.
Despite the raft of changes mentioned above, the biggest call, and potentially the biggest shock, came when Daly Cherry-Evans was named in the halfback role.
Cherry-Evans has become the forgotten man in Queensland Origin circles over the years and despite a pretty handy season for the struggling Sea Eagles is hardly setting the competition alight.
Anthony Milford, who had an absolute blinder on Saturday night, was overlooked for a more organisational half with a stronger kicking game in DCE.
The move has seen Ben Hunt shifted to the bench where he will likely fill a role in the number nine. The hope will be that his inclusion will provide some spark that Andrew McCullough has been unable to produce.
There are plenty of positives in the decision to recall Cherry-Evans to the Origin arena, mainly his past experience and his obvious talents, but I can’t help but think perhaps Kevin Walters and co. have missed a trick.
Surely this was a chance to blood 23-year-old Ash Taylor.
Given that the series is already gone, the pressure is off. Of course Queensland will want to win this game to save face in front of a big home crowd and send Billy Slater out on the back of a victory, but it’s impossible to match the same intensity of a live game in a dead rubber.
The game is to be played in front of a Maroon-dominated Suncorp Stadium, in a potential party atmosphere given the series is gone and the occasion. Queensland will be looking for blue blood without the pressure of a series being on the line.
Ash Taylor is absolutely carving it up for an otherwise pretty ordinary Titans side and surely has plenty of Origin in his future.
This looks an amazing, dare I say perfect, time to blood the youngster.
Queensland are crying out for a halfback who take the game by the scruff of the neck and dictate terms. Ash Taylor has one of the best kicking games in the NRL right now. He is a try assist machine from the boot and can create pressure through forcing goal-line drop outs and repeat sets.
‘But so can DCE’ I hear you cry.
Yes, but Ash Taylor is a fresh option whereas DCE has been tried at this level.
I made no secret of the fact I thought it was time to move on from Mitchell Pearce after his failed Origin stints. I feel the same here with Cherry-Evans. I think Taylor’s form has been superior to that of DCE’s.
I wouldn’t have dropped Hunt, potentially crushing his confidence and future rep stocks, to bring in a player in decent form who spends more time in the social media trends for funny reasons than he does the Dally M votes.
No respect to DCE who just might come out and tear the Blues to shreds next Wednesday, but this was Ash Taylor’s time.
More than one of my QLD supporting ‘mates’ admitted to the fact they’d happily take a loss and a 3-0 series defeat in order to blood Taylor for future series. They too see the Titans superstar having a huge future in the contest.
This just seems like a ‘safe’ option with no real potential upside. DCE could come out and establish himself as the next great Origin half, it’s very VERY possible. But I wouldn’t bet on it.
The Blues have all the momentum and they have the shield wrapped up.
Take a punt on a player who could potentially lead Queensland for the next decade in a match that with all due respect doesn’t mean a whole lot.
Again, this was Ash Taylor’s time.