Fullback: AJ Brimson
With Ponga out and Holmes suspended, there was only one option for the number one; AJ Brimson. Since his return from injury Brimson has been one of the form players of the competition for the red hot Titans. I’d play him at fullback even if Holmes had been available. Bennett has absolutely nailed this selection. Can’t wait.
Wing: Xavier Coates
The Broncos youngster edged out the likes of Corey Allen for an Origin debut. Supremely talented, although raw, this is a big risk I think will ultimately pay off. Has a monster night ahead of him against a far more experienced opponent but has the skills required.
Centre: Dane Gagai
Although I think the Bunnies veteran’s best spot at this level is on the wing, his experience and availablity around him dictated he should play centre. Gagai has literally won games for Queensland on the wing, however his importance in the centres here cannot be understated. The Blues have a perceived advantage here but if Gagai can contain Wighton, game on.
Centre: Brenko Lee
The Premiership winning centre will make his debut this Wednesday. To say he has improved in 2020 is a drastic understatement with the former fringe reserve grader set to be rewarded for a career best year with an Origin jumper. He will partner Dane Gagai to form a centre combination few would have guessed would be the case in pre-season.
Wing: Phillip Sami
The second winger and fourth member of the backline in line for his debut. The 55 gamer seems a veteran compared to his wing partner and faces a huge test in Game One. Sami is one of the game’s most underrated players and is a constant threat for the Titans. He’s big, he’s fast and he can score a try. Good selection!
Five-Eighth: Cameron Munster
The first no brainer decision came in the form of the Storm superstar. Fresh off a big performance in the Grand Final, Munster will be charged with lifting a young and inexperienced backline. For Queensland to win the series they need Munster to have two man of the match efforts. He can certainly do that.
Halfback: Daly Cherry Evans
The obvious choice to partner Munster in the halves. This was always going to be QLD captain DCE. He is another who needs to be at his best if QLD are to regain the Shield. Despite some brilliant performances, DCE has never really made the Origin arena his own. I have a feeling he sees 2020 as the year. Expect a huge effort from the Manly star.
Prop: Josh Papalii
The first player picked is the game’s premier prop in Josh Papalii. Arguably the most important man on the park for the Maroons, Papalii will be tasked with taking it to a huge NSW pack. Papalii simply has to win the early battle in the middle to allow his halves and young fullback the space to get on top. There’s no better man for the job.
Hooker: Jake Friend
Truthfully I’m shocked with this decision, and judging by social media, I’m not alone. I was sure Ben Hunt would start with young Grant to come into the game after 25-or-so minutes. The Roosters veteran is years overdue for a debut however didn’t enjoy the greatest of 2020’s. I think Bennett may have missed a trick here.
Prop: Christian Welch
His Grand Final performance, and experience, land Welch the starting spot to partner Papalii and co into the opening battle. He was magnificent in the decider and topped the metres for the Storm forwards, and the tackles for his side.
Second Row: Felise Kaufusi
The most obvious of choices is the eternally in form Storm wide running second rower. Kaufusi is a genuine weapon out wide, or in the middle and I expect him to create havoc for NSW likely out of position centres. Watch for him to be in the game from the first set in attack. Experienced and tough, the perfect Origin player.
Second Row: Coen Hess
The second shock in the 17 comes in the form of Coen Hess. There’s doubt in the world Bennett has picked purely on experience and reputation here. Hess, on form, can consider himself very lucky. He won’t let anyone down, and is a real danger on his day, but I’m at a loss with this selection.
Lock: Tino Fa’asuamaleaui
The Storm monster rookie has been rewarded for an incredible season with a well deserved Origin jumper. Honestly saw him starting from the bench but I love this selection. Tino is set to become a superstar of the game and Titans fans will love the fact two of their star recruits will now arrive with Origin experience.
Bench: Ben Hunt
Hunt’s name was always going to be in the 17 somewhere however I think there is a degree of shock that it was on the bench. I thought Hunt would start with Grant coming in before half time. His utility value makes this a no brainer selection however I would have started him.
Bench: Jaydn Su’A
Su’A’s incredible 2020 saw him rewarded with an Origin squad selection. I had him starting over Hess however I feel he’ll play big minutes from the bench. I expect a late switch with Hess on the night. Played extremely well under Bennett at the Bunnies and I’m expecting a big game here.
Bench: Jai Arrow
Arrow’s 2020 season improved as it went on. I thought Arrow would start at 13 but having him come off the bench is just as handy. He can play lock or at prop and will be tasked with containing the Blues impact players. Needs a big game here for QLD to win.
Bench: Lindsay Collins
Pipped the likes of Capewell and Fotouaka for the final bench spot. I’m stunned the Titans forward wasn’t preferred however I also had Collins in my original 17. Big, aggressive and capable of busting the line, Collins is ready made for Origin. I’m looking forward to him running on.