Tonga surprised to make Origin 25 - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Tonga surprised to make Origin 25

By Wayne Heming 30/04/2009 04:28:22 PM Comments (0)

Cowboys centre Willie Tonga thinks he has little hope of reigniting his State of Origin career but Queensland coach Mal Meninga remains open-minded on team selections before the June 3 opener.

Tonga's lack of NRL form didn't prevent the 25-year-old from cracking Queensland's 25-man Origin preliminary squad named earlier this week.

His Cowboys teammate Matt Bowen missed the squad but Meninga says no player has been ruled out of contention at this stage.

Meninga, who attended a Former Origin Greats function in north Queensland this week said the challenge facing players like Tonga and Bowen was to change selectors' minds.

He said Queensland's preliminary Origin squad gave players an idea of where they sat but did not preclude them from making the final side.

"If the Cowboys players looked at themselves in the mirror and were honest about how they appraise their form at the moment, they'd be saying they could play a lot better than they have been," said Meninga.

"I'd love to see them win the next five games in a row and put themselves in the situation where they demand to be selected."

While Bowen and Tonga would need to produce something special to make Meninga's 17-man squad, injuries could play a big part in the make-up of Queensland's side.

Despite having already played Origin and seven Tests for Australia, Tonga was shocked to be included in the early 25-man squad which will be cut to 17 players next month.

"That was the last thing I expected having only played three games from seven this season," said the elusive Tonga.

"If I was selected I'd be just as excited as I was when I debuted back in `04.

"It would be something special being part of an Origin side that had won the last three series."

Tonga though believes Justin Hodges, Israel Folau, Billy Slater and Karmichael Hunt are Origin certainties.

"I don't see myself competing with those boys, I think they're a shoo-in for the Queensland side," he said as the Cowboys look to continue their winning ways against an embattled Parramatta this weekend.

"If there's injuries in certain positions and I'm playing good footy then maybe I'd get a look in."

Tonga said he had to put his hand up and take control of the left side against the Eels who have had a turbulent month on and off the field.

Jarryd Hayne has already warned that Parramatta are ready to turn things around against the Cowboys and Tonga feels the same way about his own form.

"They're quite a handful and I see this game as a big challenge," he said.

"The boys are really confident and we'd love to make it three in a row this weekend."

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