Kevin Waltes 2018

QLD coach Kevin Walters answers questions ahead of Origin 1. (Image: AAP).

Queensland’s State of Origin hopes have taken a turn for the worst on the eve of Game 1 at the MCG, with Billy Slater, Ben Hunt and Dane Gagai all unlikely to take the field in the series opener.

When champion fullback Slater was ruled out of the fixture yesterday after failing a medical test on his injured hamstring, Newcastle young gun Kalyn Ponga and Broncos playmaker Anthony Milford were flown into camp.

Since then, news has leaked from the Maroons camp that halfback Ben Hunt and winger Dane Gagai are also in doubt.

While faux injuries are often just part of the pregame mental tactics, genuine ailments will cause headaches for Queensland coach Kevin Walters.

Walters’ position could be far more precarious though. As unfortunate as injuries may be, Queensland has a phenomenal breadth of talent in the outside backs all ready and willing to slot into the 17.

Why oh why then is an out-of-sorts Michael Morgan, whose selection as a bench utility was baffling enough to begin with, rumoured to be Billy Slater’s replacement at fullback?

New Blues coach Fittler has been widely praised for his bold selections, picking 11 debutants in a statewide clearance of the battered, the bruised and the boring.

While it’s fair to say that Freddy hasn’t proved anything yet, his selections are at least justified by form, talent and consistency.

SURELY the only logical selection at fullback (based on Freddy’s criteria) is Kalyn Ponga, whose speed, footwork and ball skills have breathed fresh life into rugby league in Newcastle.

Don’t give me the experience line – if you’re good enough, you’re good enough and Ponga is plenty good enough. This isn’t quantum mechanics or molecular biology, it’s rugby league – the game Kalyn Ponga plays week in week out all winter long. Sounds a lot like experience to me.

As for the wing, pick a winger.

Corey Oates has been in decent form in a lacklustre Brisbane outfit and Darius Boyd has certainly done a job for the Maroons in the past. This selection shouldn’t be overly difficult.

If Hunt doesn’t play then Walters must surely consider an actual number seven, like Ash Taylor. That would be risky, sure, but throwing Morgan or Milford in a jersey that says seven on the back doesn’t make either of them a halfback any more than me painting my skin yellow makes me a banana.

If I were Kevin Walters, I would make bringing Ponga into the side my absolute priority. As it happens, I’m not Kevin Walters, so I’ll continue to criticise his selections from the comfort of my couch and let him get on with his job.

Carn the Blues.


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