Qld have faith in Ballin debut: Slater - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Qld have faith in Ballin debut: Slater

By Wayne Heming 23/05/2010 06:18:52 PM Comments (0)

Queensland have given the first hint of Origin nerves by refusing to allow rookie hooker Matt Ballin to talk about his debut in Sydney on Wednesday night.

The 26 year-old, thrust into the key dummy half role as Cameron Smith's replacement, was declared off limits to media on Sunday.

Even though Ballin has played more than 50 NRL games and won a grand final with Manly in 2008, Maroons coach Mal Meninga issued a strict edict he was not to be distracted by journalists anxious to get his reaction to playing his first Origin.

While the Manly rake may have escaped the media's scrutiny, he can expect rival Michael Ennis to ask a lot tougher questions of his discipline on game night.

While Meninga didn't want Ballin to be distracted, he was ambushed by cameras coming out of the surf on Sunday.

Not that he said anything the Blues could seize upon as motivation.

"I'm very excited obviously, but very disappointed for Smithy," said Ballin.

"I'm really excited to get my chance, I can't wait."

Fullback Billy Slater gave Ballin a vote of confidence saying the players had faith in the hooker to step into Smith's boots.

"It (Smith's withdrawal) is disappointing, but we've taken the news really well," said Slater.

"But Matty's been training with us all week. He's won some big games, he's won a grand final so he certainly won't let anyone down."

Slater said Smith had made a wise decision.

"Sure he's disappointed he's not going to be involved in game one," said Slater.

"But he's made a smart decision. He's got to get his elbow right.

"There's two more games in this series and he's got a pretty big career ahead of him as well."

Slater said Melbourne team mate Cooper Cronk would inject some enthusiasm when he came into the game.

Cronk can cover numerous positions in the back-row, halves, centre and even fullback.

But he's also likely to be used in the ruck at dummy half in his debut.

"Cooper can play all positions," said Slater.

"He's a very enthusiastic player, I'll certainly know when he's on the field.

"He'll want to lift the tempo and get involved straight away.

"We've got a combination at club level and hopefully that'll help us out there."

After playing in grand finals and playing halfback in this month's Test against New Zealand, Cronk is expected to be overawed by anything he confronts on Wednesday night.

"He's a very talented player and very courageous," said Slater.

"He's going to put his body in front of those big fellas and he's going to take the line on and that's what you expect at State of origin level."

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