For over a decade the Queensland State of Origin team has prided itself on loyalty. A tried and tested formula once reknown for its long running success, is in need of a drastic re-write. After a comprehensive 28-4 loss to New South Wales in Game I – Queensland’s biggest loss in an Origin series since Game III 2005 – the team once a dynasty, is no more.
Compounded by their own belief of loyalty, Queensland chose to select out of form quartet Justin O’Neill, Nate Myles, Jacob Lillyman and Aidan Guerra for Game I.
In a move that proved disastrous for coach Kevin Walters, O’Neill missed 8 tackles, leading to two New South Wales tries. Myles ran for just 60 metres and was often dominated by the New South Wales defensive line. Guerra bombed a certain try and missed a handful of tackles and despite being the best of the four, Jacob Lillyman also failed to run for over 100 metres.
This has led many of us to comment about what changes should be made to the side for Game II.
Although Queensland doesn’t have the depth of options that New South Wales enjoys, there are still a number of stars waiting in the wings, doing their best to put their hand up for a selection.
Among those are one of the greatest fullbacks to ever play the game, Billy Slater. Slater, unlucky to miss selection in Game I, should be one of the first names on the team sheet come Game II.
Slater last played Origin in 2015 before being dealt an 18-month injury layoff. He responded to his recent axing with a man of the match performance against Newcastle in Round 13 where he finished the day with two tries, two try assists, five tackle busts and 165 run metres.
Slater’s inclusion in the side sees Darius Boyd shift to the wing, Queensland’s man of the match in Game I – Dane Gagai – move into the centres and Justin O’Neill falling out of the side. The only other change in Queensland’s backline sees the maestro Johnathan Thurston return in place of the debuting Anthony Milford.
In the forward pack is where the plethora of changes are made. We say goodbye to Nate Myles, Jacob Lillyman and Aidan Guerra while welcoming Origin newcomers Jarrod Wallace and Ethan Lowe while Gavin Cooper makes a return to the squad.
Wallace has been one of the form front rowers of the competition this season and has the ability to play big minutes. The towering prop from the Gold Coast has averaged 60 minutes a game this year while churning through 33 tackles and 131 run metres per game.
Ethan Lowe from the North Queensland Cowboys has the ability to play in the middle, on the edge and can kick goals if needed, his inclusion on the bench would be a welcoming one. The Goondiwindi product has big game experience having won a premiership in 2015 and has been 18th man for Queensland once before.
The other change sees one of Queensland’s best in Game III last series return to the bench in Gavin Cooper. Cooper, one of the best line running backrowers in the competition has scored over 50 tries for the Cowboys since his return to the club in 2011.
Coen Hess is the unlucky man to miss out. Hess, one of the form forwards in the competition this season, sits third on the top tryscorers list with nine. But with just 21 appearances in first grade to his name, he is still far too green for the Origin arena while the 20-year-old is still looking for consistency in his game at club level.
Melbourne’s Felise Kaufusi is another who joins Hess waiting in the wings should injury hit the Maroons side come Game III.
In a reshuffle for the Queensland pack, Sam Thaiday should start in place of fellow Bronco Matt Gillett, who had a poor performance in Game I.
Coming off the worst game of his representative career, having missing seven tackles, Gillett must revert back to the interchange bench for Game II. Meanwhile, cult-hero and Queensland mainstay, Sam Thaiday was used as a middle forward in Game I and struggled in both attack and defence. A return to the edge for Thaiday is a given for Game II. What’s the quick solution? Thaiday plays the opening 30 minutes before Gillett comes on and plays the remainder of the game.
On the other edge, Josh Papalii, one of Queensland’s most damaging forwards, must play the full 80-minutes. The other positional change sees Josh McGuire return to the front row with Ethan Lowe starting at lock while Dylan Napa reverts to the interchange bench. Napa would add a lot of impact to Queensland’s interchange, something they severely lacked in Game I.
These changes should see a much tighter contest come Game II.
Jarryd’s Game II QLD Maroons:
1. Billy Slater, 2. Darius Boyd, 3. Will Chambers, 4. Dane Gagai, 5. Corey Oates, 6. Johnathan Thurston, 7. Cooper Cronk, 8. Jarrod Wallace, 9. Cameron Smith (c), 10. Josh McGuire, 11. Josh Papalii, 12. Sam Thaiday, 13. Ethan Lowe INTERCHANGE: 14. Michael Morgan, 15. Dylan Napa, 16. Matt Gillett, 17. Gavin Cooper SHADOW PLAYERS: 18. Valentine Holmes, 19. Coen Hess