The State of Origin series is now only two weeks away, with sides for Game 1 to be chosen after this weekend's fixtures. We've seen a few near certainties drop away and a few outsiders come from nowhere to force their names into contention.
Below we take a shot at predicting the side the Maroons will announce next week. For the record, this isn't the side I would pick but the one I expect to be named in a little under a week's time.
Fullback: Billy Slater
Slater is one of a few automatic selections. His form for the Storm has been top notch as has his performances for the Maroons in the past. Slater becomes even more important following the retirement of Smith, being the only only remaining member of the QLD big four. His ball playing will be crucial given the Maroons are blooding a brand new halves combo.
Wing: Valentine Holmes
Corey Oates and Darius Boyd are in red hot contention for a wing spot although I can't see Walters overlooking the match-winner from last series in Holmes. Val's inclusion into the side was a genuine difference and turned the series in 2017. No one will ever forget his record-breaking heroics for the Kangaroos, not to mention the red hot try-scoring form he is in for the Sharks.
Centre: Greg Inglis
The likely captain and the destroyer. Inglis is the best Origin outside back in history, the stats back that up. He will be the first player picked and rightfully so. In good form for the Rabbitohs, Inglis just needs to remain fit through this weekend's round of fixtures and he's the man. His potential clash with Roberts and Mitchell is worth the price of admission alone.
Centre: Will Chambers
The other automatic selection at centre. Chambers hasn't been his usual barnstorming best in 2018 but even at half form he's still an elite centre. Chambers is a typical Origin player. He is aggressive, fast, and a pain in the backside. Another mouth watering clash with either Roberts or Mitchell looms. Delicious.
Wing: Dane Gagai
Another who may, incredibly, come under pressure to retain with Oates and Boyd waiting in the wings, yet someone I expect to be picked. Gagai has had a dream-like Origin career to date and has been a real difference maker. He has totally schooled his opposite number in series gone by and will be tasked of taking the likes of Turbo and Ferguson/Addo-Carr to the limit once again.
Five-Eighth: Cameron Munster
Kevin Walters all but announced Munster's inclusion a few weeks back. Nothing has changed since and I expect the Storm, Maroons and Kangaroos star to anchor the halves partnership. Munster already has an Origin series win and a premiership under his belt. The real test will come having to achieve success without either Cronk or Thurston by his side.
Halfback: Ben Hunt
There's talk that Hunt will be selected in the number nine following the retirement of Cameron Smith. Although I can certainly see that happening, Hunt is in career best form in the number seven and there's reason the Maroons should risk changing that. Hunt will be in the side somewhere, and on form he's absolutely acing it over the likes of DCE and Morgan.
Prop: Jarrod Wallace
Wallace has come such a long way since his early days. He is now one of the first players chosen at rep level and should step up into an enforcer role. Dylan Napa has spent more times in the headlines than in the forward clashes and for mine Wallace is miles ahead. Should start and play big minutes.
Hooker: Andrew McCullough
The more I think about this, the more sure I am that Hunt will be selected at nine with Morgan at seven, but I'm still confident McCullough will be chosen. Friend has fallen away massively in 2018 and McCullough is really the only choice when it comes to full time number nines. A tackle machine, he will not let anyone down. Has the aggression needed to take on the likes of McInnes and Cook.
Prop: Matt Scott
I was hesitant to pick Scott here but given the amount of experience that has left this QLD side I don't think you can, nor will QLD, overlook the experienced Scott. He has literally done it all, and although he's not breaking defensive walls down with ease such as in year's gone by, he's an almost must select given the circumstances.
Second Row: Gavin Cooper
Another who may be selected as a run on player due to his experience. Cooper is playing well for the Cowboys and although I would be tempted to throw Hess or Arrow in from the kick off, Cooper has a mountain of experience at a high level and will be the man the QLD'ers look to. His ability to protect his halves will be massive with the likes of Frizell on the hunt.
Second Row: Felise Kaufusi
Has hardly raised a mention in Origin watch over the past month-or-so but quite frankly that's just because there is no question as to his inclusion. Kaufusi had a wonderful World Cup series when called upon and is an absolute lock for a wide-running back row position. He will create havoc in attack and will be charged with protecting fellow Storm mate Munster in defense.
Lock: Josh McGuire
Reports are that McGuire will be fit and available for selection. Even if he doesn't play prior to the Origin team being selected, his name will be read out. He may find himself on the bench if Walters and co feel he's a little underdone, but McGuire is the state's premier lock. Another player born to play Origin.
Interchange: Jai Arrow
The Titans workhorse will be selected to make his QLD debut, I have no doubt in the world. If he is overlooked it will be an absolute injustice as has been his form for his new club. Arrow offers more than just a battering ram in attack but its his ability to make tackles as effectively in the final moments as much as the opening moments that make him so valuable.
Interchange: Josh Papalii
May start at 13 if McGuire isn't 100% but I think the Raiders star completes a reserve grade to Origin selection story. Was overlooked in the past and was rightfully furious as a result. Surely this is the series he returns and takes his frustrations out on the Blues' big men. Watch for him to run at Maloney with nearly all of his carries.
Interchange: Coen Hess
Coen Hess would be the first player I'd choose if I were naming the side. Massive, aggressive and faster than a player his size should be, Hess is the embodiment of an Origin footballer. A standout in an otherwise pretty dire Cowboys side right now, Hess could make the difference from the bench. Can you imagine being tired after 20 minutes of fury only to see a fresh Hess lining up? Yuk.
Interchange: Michael Morgan
Morgan will be selected in the side, the only question is whether it be in the halves or from the bench. In my view Morgan's versatility makes him the ultimate Origin utility. His form has been shaky by his own lofty standards but he seems to be coming good at the right time. Given his efforts in the past, QLD simply cannot overlook him, nor will they.