Queensland selectors sweat out weekend - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Queensland selectors sweat out weekend

By Wayne Heming 22/05/2009 05:07:59 PM Comments (0)

While correctly picking NSW's Origin team looks tougher than winning the Lotto, the hardest job facing Queensland selectors before naming their 17-man squad will be sweating out a weekend of NRL matches.

With North Queensland not playing until Monday night, Maroons selectors will be praying Cowboys halfback Johnathan Thurston comes through unscathed and they can rubber-stamp a line-up which will closely resemble the squad which delivered them a series' hat-trick last year.

Only injury or suspension will prevent Queensland from naming an almost unchanged 17-man squad.

Apart from checking the fitness of Brisbane's Test centre Justin Hodges, who has missed the last three NRL games with a hamstring injury, Queensland's side virtually picks itself.

Queensland selectors are renowned for their loyalty and it's highly unlikely, apart from injured centre Brent Tate, that there'll be any new faces for the opening interstate game at Melbourne's Etihad Stadium on June 3.

It would be hard to see selectors tampering with an all Australian backline of Thurston, Darren Lockyer, Greg Inglis, Hodges, Israel Folau, Darius Boy and Billy Slater.

There's been some debate about who'll start at fullback - Slater, the game's best player in 2008, or Broncos custodian Karmichael Hunt, who's been given timely assurances his possible move to rugby union next year will not harm his Origin prospects.

Slater was named at fullback for last year's series decider but Hunt started the game, a tactic coach Mel Meninga could employ again.

The toughest decision for Des Morris and co-selectors Gene Miles and Alan Smith would appear to be the make-up of the Maroons back-row with a number of contenders including Sam Thaiday, Ashley Harrison, Dallas Johnson, Nate Myles, David Stagg, Neville Costigan and Michael Crocker all in the running for starting and bench spots.

"The main thing is everyone getting through," said Morris.

"We have to see who we have left after the weekend and go from there.

"I don't think there'll be many changes.

"We'll have to wait and see about Hodgo and check with the doctor.

"You still have to sit down and go through the team, you've got several blokes playing well in the halves and at fullback."

NSW, who'll name their squad on Monday night, could go into this year's series with a new look squad boasting virtually no Origin experience in key positions such as fullback, hooker, halfback and five-eighth.

"They'll come up with a very good side and Craig Bellamy would have learned a lot from last year's series," said Morris.

A likely Queensland 17-man squad is: Billy Slater, Darius Boyd, Greg Inglis, Justin Hodges, Israel Folau, Darren Lockyer(c) Johnathan Thurston, Steve Price, Cameron Smith, Petero Civoniceva, Nate Myles, Sam Thaiday, Dallas Johnson, Ben Hannant, Ashley Harrison, Michael Crocker, Karmichael Hunt.

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