Milford in battle for Maroons recall with DCE, Mbye to replace Ponga
The bench utility spot for Queensland looms as a three-man battle with Broncos five-eighth Anthony Milford making a late run at getting a recall following his starring role in Saturday night's 26-22 win over Canberra.
With Newcastle star Kalyn Ponga ruled out of the final match of the Holden State of Origin series at Suncorp Stadium on July 11 with a hamstring injury, the Maroons selectors will need to select a bench utility when they announce the side at 7pm on Sunday night.
Milford, Manly's Daly Cherry-Evans and Wests Tigers fullback Moses Mbye appear to be the frontrunners to replace Ponga.
Milford played in game one in Melbourne but was given limited game time. Ponga came into the side for game two and played a starring role so his absence is a cruel blow for the Queenslanders as they aim to prevent a 3-0 clean sweep for the first time since 2000.
Ponga left the field in the 14th minute with a hamstring injury in Newcastle's 36-16 loss to Canterbury and did not return.
Compounding Queensland's woes is a knee injury to prop Dylan Napa which he suffered late in the Sydney Roosters' 9-8 loss to the Melbourne Storm.
If Napa is not available then Broncos prop Joe Ofahengaue or Melbourne’s Tim Glasby are likely to get a call-up.
Another scare was put through the Maroons camp when Broncos hooker Andrew McCullough suffered ligament damage to a finger in the win over the Raiders.
McCullough said he would go for scans on the injury but predicted it would not keep him out of Origin.
"Passing the footy was a bit hard but strapped up it should be right. I'll just tough it out," he said.
"I don't think a finger will stop me."
The Broncos hooker said, if picked for game three, he wanted to "put some respect back in the jersey" with a big game on home turf.
"I just want to do that for the boys and for Queensland and to do that at Suncorp is pretty special, and it is Billy's last game as well," he said.
McCullough said there was a determination not to be beaten 3-nil by the Blues.
"I don't want to be part of that. No-one in the Queensland jersey wants to be part of that," he said.
Milford said he hoped his second-half performance against the Raiders, where he had two try assists, played a key role in another and scored the match winner himself, would be enough to earn him another crack with the Maroons.
"It would be an awesome opportunity to get," Milford said.
"I just didn’t want to lose," Milford added when asked about his starring role against his old club.
"I took it upon myself, especially in that second half, to do everything I could for the team to make sure we got that win.
"I just went out there and enjoyed myself and told myself I was going to win us the game. Kodi [Nikorima] wasn’t real dominant because of an eye injury so I took it upon myself to lead the boys around the park and make sure my kicks were effective."
McCullough said Milford showed his true colours in the second half of the win over the Raiders after failing to fire in the first 40 minutes.
"Anthony had a mixed night," he said.
"As a key ball player he needs to back himself. There were a couple of calls he didn’t get right in the first half, but good players bounce back in the second half when the team needs it and he did really well."
Origin at Suncorp, there's nothing like it! Game III tickets available here