Petero backs McCullough as next Maroons No.9
Queensland great Petero Civoniceva says Brisbane hooker Andrew McCullough is the man to assume ownership of the Maroons No.9 jersey following the representative retirement of Cameron Smith.
Smith drew the curtain on his 42-match Holden State of Origin career on Tuesday, creating a huge void in the Maroons set up.
Civoniceva, himself a veteran of 33 matches for Queensland, said the fact McCullough had a similar playing style to Smith should count in his favour.
''It's going to be hard to fill his [Smith's] position, but I'd pick Andrew McCullough to make his Origin debut in the opening game,'' Civoniceva told this week's Big League magazine.
''He's a very similar player and he's very solid in everything he does. He's a great leader and is tough and tenacious, just like Smith. The Broncos hooker gets through a mountain of work with minimal fuss.''
As well as needed to find a replacement hooker, the Maroons are now also looking for a new captain.
''Coach Kevin Walters also has a tough decision with who to pick as captain. My three options are Billy Slater, Matt Scott and Greg Inglis. They're all quality players who have been great servants for the Maroons and would do a wonderful job.
''The selectors are also faced with another new situation – usually, the Queensland-based NRL teams are soaring at this time of the year, but this season it's a different story. North Queensland, Brisbane and Gold Coast are struggling with form and are all outside the top eight after the opening 10 rounds.
''Not only are these teams struggling, several key players in the Queensland setup are lacking form at club level, which poses as a challenge for the Maroons selectors.''
The rugged prop said Gold Coast forward Jai Arrow was ready join fellow Titans forward Jarrod Wallace in the Queensland squad.
''One player who deserves his shot is Jai Arrow, who has been in great form for the Titans. He's playing in a side that has battled, but he's been one of their best,'' he said.
''Team-mate Jarrod Wallace earned his spot last year and has also been solid to start the season – I'd expect him to remain in the team this year. ''