Inside this week's Big League magazine...
QUEENSLAND is looking at a State of Origin forwards shortage for the first time in years as they face up to life without loyal decade-long servant Petero Civoniceva.
An injury to Ben Hannant puts a further dent in the Maroons’ front row rotation and captain Cameron Smith told Big League it may be time to adopt the Blues’ blueprint of a smaller, more mobile pack to continue their Origin dominance.
“We’ve still got some quality players but it’s a bit of a changing of the guard I guess in the front row position,” Smith said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who are second-rowers who are playing up front which is similar to what New South Wales have gone with the last couple of years.
“They’ve gone for that forward pack that is full of back-rowers with good leg speed and some footwork and maybe it’s time for us to jump on board. Whoever pulls on that jersey, we’ll be going out there to do our best and hopefully that will be good enough.”
Luckily for the Maroons, they boast a wealth of second-rowers who have been shifted to the front at their respective clubs, including Nate Myles and Sam Thaiday. In another bonus, the young brigade of Josh McGuire and Martin Kennedy have both shown this season that they have what it takes.
One of Civoniceva’s likely replacements in David Shillington (left) said the Maroons know they can’t replace a legend, but must simply try to fill the hole he left.
“Petero’s been the cornerstone of that team and the forward pack for a decade,” Shillington said. “We see a lot of players come and go but he’s always been there, tucking the ball under his arm and going forward anytime, anywhere. He’s not a man we can replace, but we have to fill that hole somehow. Hopefully if I get a chance, I can do a really good job there in the front row. I’ve been there quite a few times now and we’ve had lots of success, so hopefully we can keep that going.”
Though there are unlikely to be any surprises when the Queensland team is named on Monday, a couple of bolters are still vying for selection, including South Sydney second-rower Ben Te’o and Canberra’s Josh Papalii.
Te’o has been impressive the past few weeks and desperately wants to be back in the Queensland jersey he wore in Game Three last year.
“That Origin game to me was a goal that was set a long time ago and was ticked off,” Te’o said. “I’m sure a lot of rugby league players can understand when you dream about achieving something and you strive for it for a long time, when you get it it’s pretty special.
“It’s one of those things that once you get it, you just want it more. You want it to be the norm, you want to be in those teams all the time but it’s a hard task because it’s a great team, there’s competition everywhere.”