Maroons are not vulnerable, says Meninga - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Maroons are not vulnerable, says Meninga

By Laine Clark 17/05/2011 07:41:11 PM Comments (0)

Two of his biggest stars will be missing, but Queensland coach Mal Meninga refuses to believe the all-conquering Maroons are vulnerable for the first time in six years.

Greg Inglis (hip) officially joined fellow centre Justin Hodges (hamstring) on the sidelines on Tuesday, forcing Queensland selectors to throw Melbourne's unheralded Dane Nielsen into the State of Origin cauldron.

A late bloomer at 25, north Queensland-bred Nielsen will make his Origin debut against NSW next week in Brisbane along with Broncos winger Jharal Yow Yeh.

Hodges and Inglis face up to a month on the sidelines and are battling the clock to be fit for June 15's Origin II in Sydney.

It's a major chink in a Queensland armour that has looked impenetrable since their record run of five straight series wins began in 2006.

But asked if Queensland had been "brought back to the field" without Inglis and Hodges, Meninga said: "Who says that?

"It's about the team performing. We haven't got GI (Inglis) and haven't got Hodgo but we will work with the cards we have been dealt with.

"A Queensland side, it is not about individuals."

Not even if that individual is captain Darren Lockyer.

Meninga claimed Lockyer's imminent retirement "would not make a difference" to the team's approach.

"Not really. We work hard on team focus, not one individual is greater than the team - Locky understands that," he said.

"That is what has made him such a great player over many years - he puts the team first.

"If we do the right thing as a team, we hope to send Locky out the way he deserves - as a victor.

"It (Lockyer's swansong season) will be in the back of the players' minds but it won't be a focal point in our preparation."

Lockyer looked more comfortable talking about his team rather than his future, admitting with a smile that he had to introduce himself to new face Nielsen on Tuesday.

"I did actually. I am looking forward to working with him," Lockyer laughed.

"It is disappointing that Justin and GI can't be here, but over the past five years whoever has come into the team has done a great job."

Man-of-the-moment Nielsen, from Mackay, looked overawed facing the huge media contingent in Brisbane on Tuesday, but Meninga had no problem throwing him into the Origin deep end.

"We would like GI and Hodgo to be available but Dane ... understands the culture growing up in Queensland," Meninga said.

"I've got the utmost faith in him."

Nielsen only cemented his spot in the Melbourne backline last year, playing 21 NRL games and also appearing in the World Club Challenge.

"It has all happened very quickly," he said.

"I found out at a Storm team meeting (on Monday). It wasn't a pleasant one because we had lost to Canberra - until I heard the news.

"Then I went home and gave the old boy and old girl a call.

"They were over the moon. My dad never swears at me but he swore - he thought I was geeing him up."

Yow Yeh celebrates an Origin call-up barely a fortnight after making his Test debut for Australia.

Broncos back-rower Corey Parker was recalled by Queensland after a six-year absence.

And New Zealand Warriors forward Jacob Lillyman is back after three years on the Origin outer.

"They have had a taste and now they have it again. It will make them better players for us I believe," Meninga said of Parker and Lillyman.

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