Meninga to stay loyal to Origin veterans
Maroons coach Mal Meninga has hosed down speculation of a selection shake-up to his Origin squad in the wake of Australia's recent poor performance in the Anzac Test.
Nine Queenslanders were part of the Kangaroos side that lost 26-12 to New Zealand in Sunday's Test at Suncorp Stadium with four of those players aged over 30.
Launching the “Be Maroon, Be Healthy” campaign to promote Maroons ‘flavoured’ fruit packs in conjunction with IGA supermarkets, the Origin coach said that there won't be too many fresh faces when Queensland's squad is named at the conclusion of Round 10.
"There's a lot of speculation but I've got no reason and the selectors don’t have any reason to doubt the players we've got at the moment, so there won't be too many surprises," Meninga said.
The main talking point stemming from Sunday's Test was the ever increasing age of the Kangaroos squad where six of the 17 were aged 30 or older.
However, Meninga believes his veteran Maroons have earned the right to have an occasional underwhelming performance.
"I'm very confident in the player's abilities. We had a bit of a hiccup on the weekend and everyone's jumped on the bandwagon about that, but for me we'll remain loyal to the players," he said.
"All the players in the Queensland system are playing really well for their clubs so you're allowed to play one [bad game], except for Corey [Parker] who did really well on the weekend, but you're allowed to have some sort of hiccup every now and then.
"You can't be consistently high getting eight or nine out of 10 all the time. When they come into camp and put a Maroons jersey on we know that they'll be motivated and know that they're going to play really well for us."
Meninga believes this year's series won't be a transitional one for the Maroons as they strive to regain the Origin shield after having their eight-year streak snapped by the Blues in 2014.
The veteran of 32 Origins as a player and 27 as a coach says the onus should be on his senior players to step down from the representative arena when the time is right, referring to Justin Hodges' decision to make the 2015 Origin series his last.
"Natural attrition after this year might see a couple of new faces and then obviously as time passes on we've got to make some tough decisions," he said.
"At the end of the day if the players are really honest with themselves and want to do the right thing by the program they'll come to me and say, like Justin's doing at the end of this year, maybe my time is up with Origin.
"We've got to get through this series first from an Origin perspective and we've got to go out there and play really well to beat the Blues so it's a tough gig up first before we can start thinking about retirement."
Some fresh faces in consideration by Meninga and the Queensland selectors are Brisbane's Josh McGuire (aged 25), Roosters prop Dylan Napa (22) and Knights enforcer Korbin Sims (23).
Queensland try-scoring whiz Darius Boyd is expected to be named for Origin I in Sydney on May 27 regardless of whether he plays for the Broncos beforehand, although it's expected he'll line up for his club side against the Panthers on Friday night after making a speedy recovery from an Achilles injury.
"[Darius] is experienced and we've had that philosophy before whether it's one game or sometimes no games – if they're fit and ready to go we'll be talking about them around the selection table," Meninga said.
"We've obviously got a few spots vacant so we'll see how Darius pulls up if he does play at all – so there's a wing spot, Ben Te'o is not around and neither is Brent Tate – there are some spots up for grabs.
"[Dylan's] going really well, Korbin Sims put his hand up on the weekend as well against the mighty [Papua New Guinea] Kumuls.
"You'd think Josh [McGuire] is at the forefront now, he's been in our system for a number of years and playing really well so he's just about due."
For Maroons lock Corey Parker, this year's Origin takes on extra importance as Queensland seek to make amends for their recent series defeat.
"We faced some adversity last year as a group and we still thought we had the side to be able to come away with a [series] victory," Parker said.
"There's a lot of pride in what we do… So aside from losing last year there's motivation every time you pull on a Maroons jersey to do it justice and do it proud.
"I guess there's a little bit extra on the line knowing New South Wales did beat us last year."