Queensland will herald the end of a legend’s career and the beginning of another’s with coach Mal Meninga naming Petero Civoniceva and Matt Gillett in a 19-man squad for the opening game of the 2012 State of Origin series.
Last year it was the emotion-charged farewell for captain Darren Lockyer that inspired Queensland to victory and the send-off theme is set to continue with the Maroons’ 30-game veteran, Civoniceva, to play in his last ever Origin series.
Civoniceva announced last week that he would retire from rugby league at the end of the season, but the selectors had no hesitation in picking the 36-year-old to line up in his 12th consecutive Origin series.
Twenty-three-year-old Broncos forward Gillett was just 12 when Civoniceva made his debut for Queensland and will now make his Origin debut alongside the iconic forward, after winning the race for the utility spot in front of Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans and Bulldogs fullback Ben Barba. Cherry-Evans has been named as 18th man.
Cowboys centre Brent Tate won the vacant wing spot after incumbent Jharal Yow Yeh’s season was ended in a sickening leg injury in Round 4, while Queensland selectors also made a statement by sticking solidly behind Darius Boyd who was picked on the other wing despite heightened speculation about his form.
The scene is set for a brutal and bruising opening encounter at Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium on Wednesday, May 23, with Queensland naming a monstrous bench containing Gillett (104kg), Rabbitohs tearaway David Taylor (122kg) and Australian enforcers Ben Hannant (106kg) and David Shillington (114kg).
Queensland's 19 man squad:
1. Billy Slater
2. Darius Boyd
3. Greg Inglis
4. Justin Hodges
5. Brent Tate
6. Johnathan Thurston
7. Cooper Cronk
8. Matthew Scott
9. Cameron Smith (captain)
10. Petero Civoniceva
11. Nate Myles
12. Sam Thaiday
13. Ashley Harrison
14. Matt Gillett
15. David Taylor
16. Ben Hannant
17. David Shillington
18. Daly Cherry-Evans
19. Dane Nielsen
Major Talking points:
• Brent Tate wins the vacant wing spot
• Darius Boyd retains other wing spot
• Petero Civoniceva to get the send-off he deserves
• Matt Gillett to make Origin debut
• Queensland have a monster-sized bench
• Corey Parker not picked – Dream Team fans rejoice.
Reminder: State of Origin will have a dedicated Dream Team competition - launching tomorrow - stay tuned!
Follow Andrew Bryan on twitter: @Andrewbryan321