Harry Grant is poised to cap a stunning rookie NRL season with a State of Origin debut after Parramatta hooker Reed Mahoney was overlooked for selection in the Queensland squad.
Grant and Jake Friend are the only specialist hookers in the Maroons squad and while the Roosters veteran is expected to wear the No.9 jersey in Adelaide on November 4, both are likely to be required during the most gruelling series in Origin history.
The Wests Tigers rookie starred in his NRL debut season after joining the club on loan from Melbourne and was leading voting for the Dally M medal when the count went dark after round 10.
Ben Hunt, who played hooker for Queensland last year, is likely to be used in the bench utility role to provide cover for halves Daly Cherry-Evans and Cameron Munster, as well as Friend or Grant at dummy-half.
Friend’s experience is expected to earn him his first Origin jersey ahead of Grant but with the three-match series to be played over a 15-day period on November 4, 11 and 18, a high number of each state’s 27-man squads are likely to be required.
The Maroons selectors have named 16 players so far, with the remaining 11 spots to come from players whose teams are still involved in finals, unless there is an injury.
Munster is expected to be joined in the Queensland squad by Melbourne teammates Felise Kaufusi, Christian Welch, Tino Fa'asuamaleaui and Brenko Lee, along with Canberra props Josh Papalii and Dunamis Lui.
Match: Storm v Raiders
Finals Week 3 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
The remaining four places are almost certain to go to South Sydney’s Dane Gagai, Jaydn Su’A and Corey Allan, as well as Penrith’s Kurt Capewell, who can play second row or centre.
Capewell started the season as the Panthers right-edge back-rower but lost the spot to Liam Martin after suffering a knee injury in the opening minute of Penrith’s round-five loss to Parramatta.
Since returning in round 17, Capewell has been mostly used as a bench utility but he will start in place of suspended Fijian international Viliame Kikau in Saturday’s preliminary final against Souths.
"We certainly don’t expect him to be big Kiks. It is hard to replace that style of player so Kurt will play his own style of game," Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said.
"I have always had a really high opinion of Kurt and what he can do; he was a starter in our team before he got seriously injured in round five against Parramatta and since then Liam Martin has taken his role and blossomed."
Martin is in contention for a back-row berth in the NSW team after Cronulla captain Wade Graham and Parramatta second-rower Ryan Matterson were not included in the NSW squad.
Match: Panthers v Rabbitohs
Finals Week 3 -
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Panthers centre Stephen Crichton and forwards Isaah Yeo, James Tamou and Moses Leota are also under consideration by Blues coach Brad Fittler.
The Blues are hopeful Roosters fullback James Tedesco will be right to go for game one after he picked up a knee injury in his team's loss to Penrith.
More will be known on Tedesco's status after the squad undergoes medicals on Monday before heading into a pre-Origin camp on the Central Coast.