Morgan still in Maroons halfback hunt: Walters

Kevin Walters insists the race to be the next Queensland halfback is still well and truly on with Michael Morgan neck and neck with Ben Hunt despite the Cowboys star's up-and-down start to the season.

There has been speculation Hunt had edged ahead based on his recent purple patch with St George Illawarra but Walters said Morgan's improved form last week for North Queensland, coupled with his pre-existing credentials, had kept him in the frame.

Morgan was a standout in the halves for Australia in last year's World Cup but has not played there for the Maroons. Ben Hunt, with one Origin match off the bench to his credit, is in the same boat.

"We haven't made any decisions around that as yet but Michael, with what he did in the World Cup and his finish to last season with the Cowboys, was very impressive and that hasn't been forgotten," Walters told NRL.com.

"The only way is up for Michael and we saw some good touches from him last week [against the Titans]. Ben Hunt has hit the ground running. Is anyone in front? No. Are we looking at both of them? Yes."

Cameron Munster is in prime position to retain the Queensland five-eighth's jersey but Walters said a tough decision loomed in finalising their halves combination, while stressing "we haven't made our minds up yet".

He said Daly Cherry-Evans, Corey Norman and Ash Taylor were not out of the picture.

"We are having regular conversations with all those guys and where they are at with their footy," he said.

"Things change really quickly. It is not just a two-man race."

With game two in Sydney, the Holden State of Origin series opener in Melbourne is one that Queensland must win. The Maroons bounced back from losing Origin I last year to win in Sydney but Walters said "you wouldn't like to do that every year".

Maroons selectors Gene Miles, Darren Lockyer and Walters have a juggling act of epic proportions ahead of them in the wake of Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronks' retirements with just five Telstra Premiership rounds to go before their squad is selected.

They must weigh up the aim of picking the halfback they believe should be the long-term option for Queensland with finding the right team balance to win the first game no matter what.

"I think it will be a mixture of all those things," Walters said when asked which of those aims would carry the most weight.

"Form is important. Previous [performance] is important ... their personalities. It could end up that one [of Hunt and Morgan] is half and one is five-eighth."

Morgan can play virtually anywhere in the backline and is capable off the bench at dummy-half or in the back row if needed.

The Cowboys five-eighth, who has started in one of his eight games for Queensland at centre, told NRL.com on Tuesday he wanted to play in the halves but recognised Hunt had made a strong case.

"I think Ben is in great form," said Morgan, who has played a major part in three consecutive Origin series victories.

"He is playing expansive footy, challenging the defensive line when he gets his chance and setting up a number of tries.

Dragons halfback Ben Hunt.
Dragons halfback Ben Hunt. ©NRL Photos

"I get on well with Ben and if he gets the halfback spot I will be happy for him. I am not a selfish player and I won't get down if I'm not picked in the starting side.

"I'd love to have that opportunity but I won't be dirty or kicking stones if I'm picked on the bench because it will mean I have the opportunity to represent Queensland, which is something I love doing.

"That (versatility) probably helps me as well because if I couldn't play a number of positions I wouldn't have played as many Origin games as I have."

 

Witness Australia's greatest sporting rivalry when Origin comes to the Melbourne Cricket ground on Wednesday, June 6. Tickets available at NRL.com/tickets