Queensland's hopes of avoiding a State of Origin clean sweep have been dealt a blow with captain Greg Inglis suffering a broken thumb.
Inglis damaged his right thumb in South Sydney's narrow win over North Queensland in Cairns on Sunday afternoon and was sent to hospital to have scans.
The veteran centre said after the game he thought the injury was minor but his worst fears were realised when it was confirmed he had suffered a break and looks set to miss six weeks, not only ruling him out of Origin but putting a severe dent in South Sydney's run to the finals.
Inglis's absence means the Maroons need to find a new skipper - fullback Billy Slater could be handed the honour for the first time at representative level in his final match for Queensland.
Maroons winger and Inglis's Rabbitohs teammate Dane Gagai went to Cairns airport immediately after Sunday's game to travel to Brisbane and join Queensland camp ahead of game three.
Gagai is likely to shift into the centres to replace Inglis with Broncos winger Corey Oates considered the frontrunner for the vacant wing spot after he spent time in the Queensland camp ahead of game two.
The Queensland Rugby League put out a statement confirming Inglis's injury and saying the announcement of the team had been delayed, with the squad likely to be announced on Monday morning rather than Sunday night as initially planned.
"The scheduled naming of the Queensland State of Origin team for Game III of this year's series has been delayed following a late injury to captain and centre Greg Inglis.
"Inglis suffered a broken thumb in today's NRL clash between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and North Queensland Cowboys.
"Maroons coaching staff and selectors have had to liaise this evening with the Rabbitohs club to confirm the injury and are organising a suitable replacement.
"Due to this unforeseen circumstance, naming of the team could be delayed possibly as late as the morning of Monday, July 2.
"QRL Media apologises to fans on the delay, but will keep you updated as soon as the final team is confirmed."
Queensland also need to replace Origin II bench utility Kalyn Ponga in their squad.
The Newcastle star was ruled out of the final match of the Holden State of Origin series at Suncorp Stadium on July 11 with a hamstring injury.
Broncos five-eighth Anthony Milford, who filled the role in game one, made a late run at getting a recall with a starring role in Saturday night's 26-22 win over Canberra.
Manly's Daly Cherry-Evans has emerged as the likely replacement for bench utility Kalyn Ponga in the squad with Wests Tigers fullback Moses Mbye also in the mix, especially with the Sea Eagles playmaker set to usurp Ben Hunt for the starting halfback role. Hunt is the frontrunner for the bench spot.
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.
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