Lockyer could return for Origin II - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Lockyer could return for Origin II

29/05/2008 08:24:04 PM Comments (0)

Queensland selectors may consider a selection stunner by playing champion Darren Lockyer off the bench in Wednesday week's return Origin clash.

It's believed selectors are concerned by Lockyer's lack of game time and a guarantee the Blues would welcome him back by sending a wall of players his way during the frenetic opening minutes of Origin II to wear him down and blunt his attack.

NSW coach Craig Bellamy sent runners at the more heavily-framed Karmichael Hunt in Origin I in Sydney when the Maroons' million dollar backline hardly saw the football.

Unless Lockyer dispels selectors' fears in his comeback against Parramatta on Friday night, in-form halfback Scott Prince could win a well deserved Origin call-up in the halves alongside Johnathan Thurston.

Forwards Jacob Lillyman and PJ Marsh are facing the axe after Queensland's 18-10 opening loss while Test forward Carl Webb could be relegated to the bench to make way for the return of veteran front-rower Steve Price.

Selectors chairman Des Morris refused to rule Prince out of the Origin picture, admitting Thurston's form was down in Origin I and that the Cowboy's captain could be struggling for confidence.

The competition's leading point scorer and chief line-breaker, Prince was overlooked for game one in Sydney to give Thurston total control.

But Thurston failed to deliver on a night where Queensland played poorly as a team.

Thurston is yet to regain his best form since coming back early form double shoulder reconstructions while Prince has been in career-best for the table-topping Titans.

If selectors opt to go with a Prince-Lockyer combination, Karmichael Hunt would revert to fullback with Billy Slater on the wing at the expense of an unlucky Brent Tate.

Selector will probably stick with Thurston at No.7 because of his past deeds and decide if his partner is either Lockyer or Prince after watching Lockyer on Friday night.

"Thurston was down on form for him but for any other player it was probably a reasonable effort," Morris told AAP.

"The side he is playing for (Cowboys) aren't going well and all that compounds on him.

"You go through everyone's performance and come up for reasons why they performed as they did on the night and whether other guys weren't doing their jobs." Morris said no player was protected from the Origin axe.

"Until you get into the class of the Lewis's and the Lockyers and that ilk, everyone's performance is reviewed," he said.

"Obviously with a guy like Thurston who's the current Australian halfback and a top player at that level for the last two or three years, you cut him a bit of slack.

"The problem is, we've got a player like Scott Prince who is in such tremendous form.

"It's one those things we'll all have to sit down and confer over." Webb said Thurston would answer his critics in Brisbane.

"He takes a bit of a battering in games so he's a tough little customer," said Webb.

"There's always going to be critics. As players we really don't give a shit.

"There's always going to be dickheads having their say."

Morris said while it was great news that Lockyer could be available, Queensland weren't relying on him alone to save the series.

"Whether he (Lockyer) is in or out, we're not relying on him but it's good news he could play this weekend."

He denied pressure was applied by the selectors on Lockyer to play this weekend before they named their 17-man squad on Tuesday.

"There certainly wasn't any from me. We (selectors) don't get involved in that sort of stuff," said Morris.

"I'm sure he's been talking with Mal (Meninga). "We had a bit of a chat the other day and we've been approaching it (team) as if he wasn't going to be available.

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