Queensland, having lost the Origin series opener last Wednesday night, face a do-or-die contest at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium next Sunday.
The Maroons were second best in a few areas and despite being the better side at times, may have to look to some changes to rescue the series.
With Darius Boyd having joined the likes of Jonathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith in retirement, it’s really generation next for the Queenslanders.
Below are the players most likely to come into contention for game two:
Billy Slater: The obvious inclusion. Missed Origin One due to injury but, if fit, will slot straight back into the lineup. This will be his last series for QLD after announcing his retirement. The inclusion of Slater will add an element of ball playing, direction and leadership that they lacked in game one. Despite Michael Morgan’s obvious talents, Slater is still the premier number one in the competition.
Kalyn Ponga: There has been a huge push to include Dally M leader Kalyn Ponga in the Origin two side. I don’t see how the QLD can overlook Slater while the series is on the line and I can’t see them picking Kalyn Ponga over Morgan from the bench either. That said, he’s one of the form players of the competition right now, if not the form player. If the series is done next Sunday, he has to debut in game three.
Daly Cherry-Evans: A long shot given his form right now but if Ben Hunt fails to pull up after a big week then DCE suddenly comes into consideration. Anthony Milford is the more likely replacement being he was preferred to the Manly halfback when Slater went down and Morgan moved to fullback, but there’s a chance Morgan may play centre opening a bench utility spot. Stranger things have happened.
Matt Scott: Probably the most unlucky to miss out in game one for those north of the Tweed. Although he was ultimately suspended there’s no chance he doesn’t fight it with Origin on the line. I expect Scott to come in with Napa moving to the bench as QLD were a prop short in game one. They also lacked his big game experience. That said, his form has hardly been knocking the door down so it’s not beyond thought that he misses out yet again despite his amazing service in the past.
Corey Oates: The Maroons were second best in a few areas but their wingers were not one of those areas. That said, if the Maroons want to change the dynamic there is a slight chance Corey Oates could come in. I’m surprised he wasn’t looked at in terms of an Origin spot. If he had played more back row for Brisbane I have no doubt he’d be in the 17. If Valentine Holmes or Dane Gagai don’t make it through the week then Oates will absolutely come in after Boyd’s retirement.
Matt Gillett: Reports differ on whether Matt Gillett will be ready or not for Game II but if he’s fit he has to play. Although it’s a big risk to come into a huge game with no NRL game time under his belt, it’s a risk they need to take. Josh McGuire did it and Matt Gillett is capable. That said, I haven’t heard anything suggesting he’s close to being ready to return.
Rotate starters: There’s a chance that the run on side for QLD’s Origin Two may be different from game one. Dylan Napa may move to the bench, while Josh Papalii may join the run on side to add grunt from the start. Morgan will likely play off the bench although there’s a thought of bringing him into the seven with Ben Hunt playing off the bench. I would be very surprised if the 17, even 13 was the same come Origin Two.