No decision on Slater, Boyd: Lockyer
Queensland's famous pick and stick policy will be put to the ultimate test this year with incumbent fullback Darius Boyd duking it out with returning champion Billy Slater for the coveted No.1 jersey.
Slater was expected to be rusty after missing most of the past two seasons with a serious shoulder injury, but his form for the Storm in early 2017 is as good as it's ever been.
Normally he would be a walk-up start in the Queensland side, but it would take a brave coach to shift Kangaroos fullback Darius Boyd back to the wing where he has played most of his State of Origin career.
Maroons great Darren Lockyer is better placed than most when it comes to talking about who should be Queensland's fullback for this year's Origin series.
Having donned the No.1 jersey on 16 occasions for his beloved state – plus twice more during Super League – Lockyer knows what it takes to be the Maroons custodian.
Given his role as part of Queensland's three-man brains trust, Lockyer was unable to give too much away when quizzed on who would wear the No.1 jersey on May 31, but admitted it was an enviable problem to have.
"It's a difficult conversation because you're talking about two brilliant players," Lockyer told NRL.com.
"Billy can't do much more than what he's delivered in the last month of footy. I thought he might take a few weeks to find his feet but he was on pretty much straightaway.
"He's got the combination with Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk at club level, but then you look at Darius and what he brings to the Broncos and his combinations with Smith and Cronk at Australian level.
"It's a tough decision but I think the coach will probably think about what works best for how they want to play and he'll make a decision based on that.
"You've got some fantastic senior players in that squad so you've got to have a chat with them to see what they're thinking because they're the ones out there playing."
Thurston injury cloud
The other headache for Maroons selectors is whether to risk Johnathan Thurston whose remarkable run of 36 consecutive matches for the Maroons is in serious doubt.
The Cowboys halfback is unlikely to play in Thursday night's showdown against the Sharks after suffering a shoulder injury in the Anzac Test win over the Kiwis and is racing the clock to be fit in time for the series opener.
"It's a delicate one because the last thing we want to do – and I'm sure Johnathan is thinking the same way – is play Game One when it's not right and he busts his shoulder and he's gone for the series," Lockyer said.
"He's not playing tonight which will give him a bit more time to prepare, but I think by late next week in camp, he'd have to do some hard, physical contact to give it a good test, and I mean hard contact. It's not just about hitting a pad; he'll need some big boys to run at him because that's exactly what the Blues will do if he plays.
"If you're Johnathan Thurston, it's his last series, but he knows there are two more games after this. He'll know that if he's a potential liability then he'll sit it out."
One left-field solution that would solve both problems is moving Boyd to five-eighth if Thurston is ruled out.
Many people have tipped the Broncos skipper to follow in Lockyer's footsteps and eventually move from fullback into the halves, but according to the Maroons great, it won't happen this year given Queensland's depth in their playmaking stocks.
"I think it's a big step in that arena. I'm not saying he couldn't do it, but it's not on our radar," Lockyer said.
"We've got some ageing champions so we obviously need one eye on the future. The performances of guys like Daly Cherry-Evans, Anthony Milford and Michael Morgan this week will be telling, because if one of those guys has a good game then they might elevate themselves to the top of the list.
"Putting Darius to five-eighth is not an option for us right now."