We're now less than a month from the selection of the Queensland's Origin I side. The game itself is five weeks away, which isn't a lot of time considering the issues QLD are having with injury and lack of form.
Kevin Walters is looking to pick a side that can wrestle the Shield back from the Blues.
Below is the side I believe will be chosen for Origin I. Much like the NSW side, this isn't necessarily the side I would pick but it's the one I believe will run out on June 5th.
1. Kalyn Ponga
The great Maroon hope. Ponga has looked back to his best since reverting back into the number one at club level. Kevin Walters was surely the happiest man around when the Ponga-to-six experiment ended. QLD need their superstar number one firing in a big way come Origin I. His form is good and he looks ready to take the next step up. He almost changed the series last year playing out of position. This could be his year.
2. Corey Oates
Valentine Holmes has been among the Maroons' best for the past few seasons and his loss will be massive. Corey Oates will step into his jersey and will immediately become a big weapon for his halves. He was brilliant against a rookie this past Saturday evening but he's been too quiet in too many games in 2019. Can he match the output of his potential opponent Blake Ferguson?
3. Will Chambers
Chambers will be chomping at the bit to get one back over Latrell Mitchell after last season. He was made to look silly at times by the Origin rookie but has seen a fruitful past few weeks for the Storm. He's a little down on his best form but shapes as one of the keys to success for the Maroons. He may shift to the left to match up against Roberts.
4. Michael Morgan
Morgan will be in the side somewhere and right now the best fit is at centre. He's played there before to great success and will be looked upon to do so again. He will have to keep either Latrell or (more likely) Jimmy the Jet in check, while providing plenty in attack. There's a good chance he may shift into the halves if required in the second half. Huge weapon but down on form despite an impressive eight try assists.
5. Dane Gagai
Gagai could find himself in the centres but I can't see Walters shifting him from the position he's dominated Origin in for so long. There's a good chance he'll match up against old foe Blake Ferguson. He's WELL ahead in the past battles and will be looked upon to win another battle. Gagai's Origin form has been enormous in the past and truthfully well above his club form. They'll hope for that again.
6. Cameron Munster
There have been suggestions that Munster may shift into the centres or even to halfback but you don't shift the game's best number six. He's leading the Dally M count and is the incumbent number six for both state and country. He is Queensland's key player in 2019. If he has a big series then QLD are right in this. If not, then QLD are behind the eight ball. He's the form player of the competition and will be the target of plenty of NSW attention. HUGE!!!
7. Ben Hunt
I'd much prefer to see Ben Hunt at nine or play off the bench but an injury to Cherry Evans means Hunt will likely start in the seven as he did in games one and two last year. His form has been good, really good, and you'd be harsh to say he doesn't deserve his jumper but I really think, DCE available, he'd be pushed out of position. His kicking game will be absolutely key with the three NSW backs ready to cart it back. He MUST pin them down their end.
8. Jai Arrow
The Titans big man had the standout game of the season for forwards against the Sharks and Walters will hope he has another such game in Game I. Hasn't played the minutes expected but I think he'll play big minutes in maroon. Shapes as an absolute key in the early minutes as Klemmer and Vaughan will come out firing. Needs a big series.
9. Andrew McCullough
Who else? With all due respect to the Broncos' rake, he is last man standing. Friend is out, Hunt will have to shift to the halves to cover the absence of DCE. McCullough was far from horrible in last year's series but really struggled to match the impact his opposition number nine had on each game. He'll do the job and will tackle himself to exhaustion but the fact there are rumours of his minutes being reduced at club level are worrying. Huge month for the incumbent number nine.
10. Josh Papalii
The second yet more aggressive bookend for those north of the Tweed. Papalii has been great for Canberra in 2019 and will be picked up front with little doubt. He has a load of experience at this level and is the exact kind of player Walters is looking at to lift the intensity from run or tackle one. Will likely play in short and extreme stints.
11. Matt Gillett
The big in this season comes in the form of Matt Gillett. He's one of the game's elite forwards and although he's not at his very best yet since his return from injury, he can be a match-winner. His presence will lift those around him and I expect a huge series from the Broncos second rower. Future QLD captain.
12. Felise Kaufusi
Perhaps the most underrated member of the QLD team is the Storm wide-running genius. It would not shock me if a Kaufusi offload or break is the difference in game one. He may have to play 80 minutes at high intensity. One of the most reliable members of either squad.
13. Josh McGuire
McGuire seems to have been around forever yet is still only 29. Currently third in terms of metres run, and only one metre behind fellow middle man David Klemmer, McGuire is born and bread for the interstate clash. He'll niggle, he'll stir up and he'll hit hard from tackle one. Easy choice. Automatic selection.
14. Jarrod Wallace/Dylan Napa
If Napa is fit, it's his spot. There's a chance that he won't have had much game time by the time selections are announced, in which case Wallace comes in. QLD need Napa's aggression off the bench, although Wallace is no slouch. If the Maroons are going to find an advantage in game one I believe it can come from the interchange bench. Napa has been huge for the Bulldogs and his injury came at a horror time for club and state. Wallace is consistent but won't shift a game as often.
15. Coen Hess
Hess has been well below his fierce best in 2019 thus far but he has form at the Origin level in the past. Hess is a huge presence and can change a game with a big moment but has to find that at the top level. Gavin Cooper would be a far safer option but I can't see Walters taking the safe option in this case. He needs impact and they don't come much more impactful than the Cowboys back rower.
16. Tim Glasby
This will come down to Glasby or his former Storm teammate Christian Welch but I think Glasby's experience will get him over the line. Glasby is a big body and played well in his previous appearances in Maroon. He has not come along as was hoped since his shift to the Hunter but Walters is hardly spoilt for choice here and no one has really jumped out.
17. David Fifita
QLD will be tempted to run with a utility player on the bench but truthfully there aren't any standouts demanding inclusion. Corey Norman is a shout but I really think they go a four-man bench with the young firebrand Bronco the man to make his debut. Gavin Cooper may jab this spot but I just see Walters going the youth option. Fifita is a potential momentum changer from the bench. QLD need to take a risk to find that spark.