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Meninga unsure over Qld's starting side

By Wayne Heming 03/06/2008 07:17:24 PM Comments (0)

Queensland coach Mal Meninga confessed to some "selection dilemmas" involving Darren Lockyer's role in next week's do-or-die Origin after being given a 17-man squad including bolter Darius Boyd.

Selectors couldn't find room for the in-form Scott Prince, while Lockyer is seen by the Maroon faithful as Queensland's saviour.

But Meninga refused to guarantee the Broncos captain would start his 28th Origin after just 52 minutes of football in six weeks.

He also said he was undecided whether to start Queensland's first game man-of-the-match Nate Myles - named on the bench - to counter the Blues' early aggression, which had the Maroons on the back foot in Sydney.

"We're not going to expect great things (from Lockyer), he's only had one game back," said Meninga, who'll monitor the champion's progress throughout the week before making a final decision on how best to use him.

"It's a team effort.

"We're not going to rely on Darren being in the footy side, the same as Steven Price even though it's great to have those guys back because of their experience and leadership."

Lockyer's genius snatched a last-minute win for Brisbane over Parramatta and Meninga's vast Origin experience tells him it's important to have him on the field at the business end of Wednesday night's game.

"You want Darren Lockyer there in the crunch time for sure," said Meninga, who played 32 Origins.

"A majority of Origin games are won like that.

"It's pretty important to have those types of players on the field when the chips are down in the crunch."

After missing Origin I in Sydney last month following clean up surgery on the right knee he had reconstructed late last year, Lockyer said he'd be open to any suggestion from his coach.

Lockyer still has a small tear in his right cartilage which will restrict his Origin preparation.

Until his shock comeback last Friday night, he'd been pencilled in to come off the bench in Origin II.

"To be honest, people have been saying I'm not going to start and this and that," said Lockyer.

"I haven't really sat down with Mal (Meninga) and worked out what the game plan is.

"At the moment I'm preparing myself to start the game and play 80 minutes.

But if Meninga wanted to spare him an early bashing by bringing him off the bench?

"Look, if Mal felt that was best for the team and told me his reasons why, I'd consider it," he said.

"I'm here to do what's best for the team."

Karmichael Hunt has been named on the bench for PJ Marsh but could start at five-eighth and shift into the back-row or fullback when Lockyer comes on.

Former Australian schoolboy Boyd, 20, won the battle to play wing after selectors wrestled with a number of options to cover the damaging loss of right centre Justin Hodges, who has been suspended for six games.

Brent Tate will partner Greg Inglis in the centres with Boyd, who has 25 tries from 59 games, making his Origin debut.

Cowboys forwards Carl Webb and Jacob Lillyman have been dropped, with Titans utility Ashley Harrison called up for his second Origin since game three of the 2005 series.

Meninga rated 18-10 first-game winners NSW an even better side with the addition of Knights teammates Steve Simpson and Kurt Gidley, saying it would give the Blues more punch off the bench.

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