BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 09: Daly Cherry-Evans of the Maroons makes a break for the Maroons opening try during game three of the State of Origin series between the Queensland Maroons and the New South Wales Blues at Suncorp Stadium on July 9, 2014 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Queensland were always going to find it difficult to replace Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston after both retired from representative football in 2017.

In Cameron Munster the Maroons seem to have found the perfect ball-playing five-eighth to at least go some way to filling the void left by possibly the greatest halves combination in the interstate series history.

Despite being only 23 years of age, nothing seems to worry Munster. He has a premiership and an Origin series victory to his name as well as two Kangaroo jumpers.

It’s not beyond belief that Munster will be the first choice number six for club and state, and possibly country, for the next decade.

Unfortunately the Maroons seem to be having early trouble in replacing their champion number seven.

Despite being the halfback for the table topping Dragons, Ben Hunt struggled in both games of the 2018 series so far. Although it would be cruel to write him off so early in his Origin career, some fans are already referring to him as ‘Queensland’s Mitchell Pearce’.

Pearce, an amazing club footballer, has never been able to deliver that elusive Origin series win despite being handed more chances than his previous performances probably deserved. He was made scapegoat for the majority of the losses suffered by the blue state.

The Blues’ only Origin win in the past decade, prior to 2018, was when Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds formed an all-Bulldogs halves combination.

There have been vocal calls from fans and pundits alike to drop Hunt for Game III and replace him. Three names have been thrown up, with a potential fourth, far more left-field option presented.

Anthony Milford: Perhaps given his previous Origin experience, Milford shapes as the most obvious inclusion. That said, Milford is a genuine number six. Cameron Munster is also a genuine number six. Neither man controls the game through the boot which places a lot of pressure on McCullough and Slater to chime in.

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Being that neither of those players is a noted kicker, it’s a hugely risky strategy. Despite his two Origin appearances, you can’t win an Origin game without winning the field position battle. I can’t see Milford, for all his magic skills, delivering that.

Ash Taylor: In my view, the favourite. Ash Taylor has the best kicking game of all possible candidates and leads the NRL for try assists. Given the Blues have two specialist fullbacks and the quickest man in the competition across their back three, QLD are going to need pinpoint kicks. They’re going to need repeat sets to build pressure, they’re going to need Ash Taylor.

He certainly does not possess the running game of the other options here but the Maroons need someone to control and direct, and Taylor’s boot can deliver just that. The big question would obviously be his defence. The Blues would target the much smaller Taylor and work him hard for 80 minutes. Big test if chosen, although with the series done and dusted the pressure is slightly released.

Daly Cherry-Evans: For some reason DCE’s rep career card seems to have been punched. I’m not exactly sure why but to be honest DCE would make the most sense if the Maroons want to win Origin III. He has big game experience and lacks the glaring weaknesses of the other contenders.

His kicking game is far superior to Milford’s and Kalyn Ponga’s, while he has far more experience than Taylor. He has both the passing and running game and despite his club’s struggles has a fair amount of form behind him. It would be hard to justify not selecting DCE to be honest. If he has a monster game this weekend then he firms as a real shot despite ridiculous suggestions to the contrary.

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Kalyn Ponga: The left-field option. The more I think about it the more convinced I am that Ponga will be the number seven for Queensland in game three. Simply put the Maroons need Ponga playing 80 minutes and there is little to no chance Billy Slater will be dropped given what he produced for the Maroons last Sunday night. Also not forgetting he’s potentially the best modern fullback to play the game.

Ponga could fill the playmaking role. He certainly has the flair. Given his 50+ minute stint in the front line last weekend there is no doubt he could handle the defensive workload. Once again the kicking game is a potential problem, but he can do everything else, so he’s probably hiding a 10/10 attacking kicking game under that headgear too.

If you’re worried about young Ponga being overawed by the occasion, don’t be. His hilarious answer to interview questions asking ‘what was the difference between club and Origin footy?’ was a simple ‘I dunno’. The kid cannot be rustled. Make it happen.

Ben Hunt: The fifth option is simply sticking with Ben Hunt. He hardly had the worst game of all time last week, nor was his Origin I overly terrible. That said, the third tackle option that saw the ball kicked into row C of seating won’t easily be forgotten. He will be back at this level, but maybe not until at least 2019.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Daly deserves a go, most in form 7 and best option for QLD. But I think everyone realises that he has a frisky relationship with the senior QLDers. If he didn’t have that baggage he would walk into the 7 jumper.

  2. Ben hunt is similar to Mitchell Pearce. Play great for club but when it comes to rep footy they fail

  3. Suggest a re-jig of the article title to read “Anyone replaces Ben Hunt” Just about anyone could. He’s unfortunately a choker as the merged venture will find out when the whips are cracking. Qld are very light on for a genuine 7 for a change.

  4. Munster was given a “Player Rating” of 4/10 and was as ineffective in SOO2 as Ben Hunt – so the comments about him in the second paragraph above are just nonsense.
    How could Hunt and Munster, as halves who have never teamed for Origin level ever be as effective as Thurston and Cronk. Hunt has always been a running half, not a kicker, so expecting him to be another Cronk in SOO was and is delusional.
    That said, Why not give DCE/Taylor or someone else a run in a dead rubber of SOO3 and see if he can instantly be a smash with Munster.

  5. Give DCE a another go it’s nit like we need the win anyways. Then next year Ponga will play Fullback, Munster 6, Morgan 7 and then 14 Hunt.
    I really want to include Ash Taylor in somewhere for game 1 next year but think for all his great kicking game he needs to prove himself abit more dominant at club level and he needs a good halves partner to do that. He does have time on his side but it could be a very risky move but there is another Queenslander who runs the ball very well and is not wanted by his club, Corey Norman. He would be a big hit or miss but I really would like to see the Titans lose a lot of the not needed players and go after some big stars another being Lachlan Coote aswell.

    1. Coote
    6. Norman
    7. Taylor
    9. Peats

    This would make an awesome spine.
    1 obvious problem is salary, but I’m thinking the eels are targeting a lot of outside backs (Morris bros, Fergo) why not ship them Hurrell for Norman. Not to mention Kane Elgey and his 600k are coming off the books. As for Coote he’s been rumoured to come for a long time and they could easily offer someone like Leilani Latu to go the other way. Matt Scott is getting old and cany dominate others, Latu would provide immediate impact from the bench aswell as someone who could aim to make Scott’s jersey his next year.

    1. Coote
    2. Don
    3. Copley
    4. Peachey
    5. Sami/Gordon
    6. Norman
    7. Taylor
    8. Boyd
    9. Peats
    10. Wallace
    11. James
    12. Proctor
    13. Arrow

    14. Cartwright
    15. Boyle
    16. Mathews/Hipgrave
    17. King

  6. Leave Mitchell Hunt there, NSW best player, no need to change although they could by DCE in there then NSW would win very easily , Taylor would be my choice.

  7. Possibly if Munster had a convincing kicking game and was a genuine option the blues wouldn’t place massive pressure on Hunt the whole game, and he would possibly make a decent play. But being said, who kicks on the third tackle in attack within the opp 20, that alone puts him in the utility position.

  8. As a NSW fan, I’d love to see DCE get picked haha but if the Maroons were thinking of the future, Taylor would be the way to go. Forget the nonsense of him playing bad, denting his confidence .. blah blah blah. There’s absolutely no pressure on him to deliver in the first place if he does get chosen. Series is over and honestly all he needs to do is play his natural game, which is direct the team around, kick well and defend well. I’m sure Munster and Slater will take care of the rest. Taylor complements Munster so well. Qld also need a Goal kicker and Taylor fits the bill. Also, forget McCullough too, he’s good don’t get me wrong, but everything he’s done this series, Peats did it last year for the blues and where’d that get himself and the blues? Go with Granville. His game is similar to Damien Cooks and would also provide the same threat to the Blues as Cook does to the Maroons. Ash will be good for the experience and next year it’d be a two horse race out of him and Morgan for the 7, loser will most likely get the 14.

    1. Slater
    2. Holmes
    3. Inglis
    4. Chambers
    5. Gagai
    6. Munster
    7. Taylor
    8. Napa
    9. Granville
    10. McGuire
    11. Papalii
    12. Kaufusi
    13. Arrow

    14. Ponga
    15. Ofahengue
    16. Welch
    17. Hess

    18. Sua

  9. I don’t think Hunt comparisons to Pearce are fair. Hunt has been a big game choker before he had a go at Origin and Pearce’s problem was that he would go missing during games but Hunt’s problem was he kept calling for the ball and making bad choices.

    Ben Hunt has basically lost the Broncos a premiership and Qld an Origin series through his own actions. While Pearce has been in plenty of Origin loses I don’t think anyone can point to a single play where he was responsible for those loses on his own.

    Love to see Taylor get a run but I doubt they will put anyone new in.

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