New Maroons halfback Daly Cherry-Evans and fullback Billy Slater have their own injury battles to overcome ahead of State of Origin II. Credit: Robb Cox. Copyright: NRL Photos.
After a brutal State of Origin series opener – and a couple of key injuries – NRL.com's writers have come up with the following preferred Queensland Origin side to face New South Wales in Game Two at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday, June 18.
1. Billy Slater
Slater is facing an uphill battle to be fit for Queensland in Game OneI after injuring his shoulder in the series opener. Arguably the home side's best in Origin I after punching out 220 metres for the Maroons, Slater will have played no games between Origins if he is fit enough to take his place.
2. Darius Boyd
Darius Boyd did what Darius Boyd does best in the Origin I – stick to his wing and dive over in the corner for a couple of four-pointers. Having cut out a perfect niche in this Maroons side, Boyd is slowly but surely working his way towards Queensland's all-time try-scoring record.
3. Greg Inglis
If Billy Slater isn't fit enough to take his place in the No. 1 jersey in Game Two then there is always Greg Inglis. While he is comfortably one of the best centres when it comes to the representative scene, Inglis produced two try assists for the Rabbitohs last Monday night from fullback against the Dragons to highlight what he is capable of in the custodian role.
4. Justin Hodges
Hodges didn't back up for the Broncos after his efforts in Game One but will be fit to take his place in the Maroons backline when it comes to crunch time. His 94 metres against the Blues in Game One demonstrates that the 32-year-old still has it.
5. Brent Tate
While he expressed his concerns over potential injuries after being at the receiving end of a dangerous throw from Blues duo Beau Scott and Josh Reynolds in Origin I, Tate bounced back to produce 114 run metres for the Cowboys in their important win over a depleted Storm side three days later.
6. Johnathan Thurston
There haven't been too many games in recent times when Johnathan Thurston has played as poorly as he did in Origin I. Losing his usual halves partner Cooper Cronk early in the proceedings wouldn't have helped in the slightest. In typical Thurston-fashion though, the Cowboys five-eighth returned to form against the Storm 72 hours later to produce a try, a try assist and 411 kick metres.
7. Daly Cherry-Evans
While Cherry-Evans is earmarked to start at halfback after Cooper Cronk broke his arm in the series opener, the Manly playmaker is racing the clock to be fully fit himself after missing last weekend's game against the Broncos with a knee injury. He'll have big shoes to fill after a mixed performance as Cronk's replacement in Game One.
8. Matthew Scott
Arguably the form prop of the NRL this season, Scott only produced 88 metres for Queensland in Game One but backed up to run 175 metres and make 32 tackles against Melbourne last week in a typically strong display from the 28-year-old.
9. Cameron Smith (c)
Without the other two-thirds of Melbourne's famous 'big three' combination against the Cowboys last week, captain Smith played on despite carrying an ankle concern of his own to carry his team. While they went down 22-0, Smith was almost the best player on the field with 54 tackles to his name.
10. Nate Myles
The old-school Queensland prop Nate Myles smashed out 131 metres and 30 tackles for a Maroons team constantly under pressure in Origin I.
11. Sam Thaiday
Thaiday is back after a calf injury kept him out for seven weeks – a setback that cost him an Origin I berth. Making his return in Round 12 against the Sea Eagles, the veteran back-rower managed 80 metres and 17 tackles.
12. Matt Gillett
Fresh off an Australian Test debut and another foray into the Queensland team, Gillett was instrumental in the Broncos' 36-10 win over Manly last Sunday. The 25-year-old generated a try and 190 metres for his team.
13. Corey Parker
Everyone in the NRL Fantasy world was left scratching their head after Corey Parker's return for the Broncos following his appearance in Origin I – with the 32-year-old only staying on the field for just over a half of football and making a meagre 11 tackles. Parker himself would have been grateful for the lighter workload and will no doubt put in another tireless display for Queensland in Game Two.
14. Anthony Milford
While Broncos halfback Ben Hunt was mentioned as a possible replacement for the utility role on the Queensland bench, Raiders fullback Anthony Milford was the preferred option amongst the NRL.com staff considering his ability to play almost everywhere in the backline. The future Bronco is leading the NRL in tackle breaks after smashing through 67 willing defenders so far this year.
15. Aidan Guerra
Although it may be at the expense of Josh Papalii, Guerra impressed us so much in Origin I that we chose him again for Game Two. Returned to play for the Roosters three days after Origin and produced five tackle breaks, 22 tackles and 103 metres, in another reassuring sign that he will be wearing the Maroon jersey for a long time to come.
16. Ben Te'o
With Te'o confirming he is set to leave the Rabbitohs and perhaps even the NRL at season's end, the back-rower will be looking to leave a mark on his remaining games for Queensland. The five-time Maroons representative made an impact off the bench with a solid 79 metres in Origin I.
17. Chris McQueen
After starting for Queensland in Origin I, McQueen returned to the Rabbitohs in his newfound bench spot to play only 30 minutes We've bumped him back to the bench in our Maroons side as well thanks to Sam Thaiday's return.
NRL.com's Origin II Blues team