In-form Barba an Origin chance: Walters
New Queensland coach Kevin Walters backed Sharks livewire Ben Barba as a possible option to fill the void left by veteran duo Billy Slater and Justin Hodges for the Maroons in this year's State of Origin series.
With Hodges retired and Melbourne's Slater ruled out for the season with a shoulder injury Walters was coy over whether he'd utilise Greg Inglis at fullback or keep the Souths star in the centres to maintain his record-breaking combination with winger Darius Boyd.
Walter's words follow Barba's best game in his Sharks career on Monday night in Cronulla's 14-6 win over Melbourne, with the fullback showcasing form similar to that won him the Dally M Medal four seasons ago.
"[Barba's] back to somewhere near what he was showing in 2012," Walters said.
"Obviously he's been involved in our different emerging programs over the years. Selectors are certainly aware of Ben's talents. It was a good performance from him again [against the Storm] so that's good signs from him and good signs for Queensland.
"It just depends at the time what's happening. That's still not underestimating the loss of Billy and Justin. But someone will put their hand up and go out and do a good job."
Barba could be a bench utility option as well, though it would mean he'd oust Cowboys five-eighth Michael Morgan from the position.
Morgan featured in all three games of Queensland's 2015 Origin victory.
"[Barba's] got the x-factor when he comes into those sorts of games. It's worked well for Queensland in the past to have someone of his calibre on the bench," Walters said.
"Michael Morgan's done a terrific job there for Queensland over the past couple of years.
"It depends on who's available for June 1. We're still several weeks away from that. But everyone's being looked at to fill the positions that have now become available."
Speaking at the official State of Origin launch on Tuesday, Walters hinted at some nerves creeping in as he gears up for his Origin series as head coach – replacing Mal Meninga after a decade at the helm.
"I was a bit nervous coming in and seeing the signs and all the vision on the big screens, it just makes you very excited more than anything about what lies ahead for this Queensland team," Walters said.
"It's not so much a new era, but we've got some change in some staff and a couple of players have moved on as well or won't be available this year. It's a big challenge ahead."