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Unhappy Maroons players.

The spirit is willing but the talent is lacking.

Queensland are facing a massive conundrum as they search for answers to save their Ampol State of Origin campaign for game two at Suncorp Stadium on June 27.

While Josh Papalii returns from suspension for Canberra this week and is likely to come back into the Maroons side, the only other selection certainty would be  Newcastle fullback Kalyn Ponga should he overcome a groin injury in time.

Otherwise the cupboard is pretty bare for the Maroons and they will need to find the answers from within.

What the record 50-6 defeat on Wednesday in Townsville did underline was the importance of Christian Welch to the Maroons.

Their midfield defence became sloppy, which created space for the Blues after the hard-working prop left the game for a HIA after just 13 minutes.

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Queensland's only loss in last year’s series came when Welch missed Origin II recovering from a head knock and the players lamented his absence for most of the game in Townsville.

"For sure, what he brings is the little things you love," Felise Kaufusi told

"The little pressures, the kick pressure stuff that people don’t really recognise but it’s massive in this Origin arena.

"He was a big loss and to lose him so early really did hurt us, but that is going to happen in games and we have to overcome that.

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"We have to learn from tonight as hard as it is and as embarrassing as it is, individually and as a team we have to get it right."

Moe Fotuaika was Queensland’s best forward in his role off the bench and got more game time in Welch’s absence, and while Jai Arrow tried to assume Welch’s defensive pressure duties, he knows nobody can replicate the master.

"Yeah, it doesn’t help when you’ve lost a quality player like Welchy who tightens up that middle," Arrow said.

"He does all the dirty stuff that not many people notice and he was definitely missed.

"It’s a tough one to swallow but we have to swallow it and make sure we do what we can to prepare for game two because that one hurt."

Kurt Capewell hopes he gets a shot at redemption in Origin II, but given he’s a back-rower masquerading as a centre for the Maroons his position may come under review.

NSW centres Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trbojevic were the two best players on the field in Origin I, but they too are makeshift options given they play fullback in the NRL.

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The Maroons could look to trial Valentine Holmes at centre with AJ Brimson moved to fullback for Origin II, otherwise other potential centre options include the likes of Kurt Mann, Moses Mbye, Phil Sami or even former Queensland star Will Chambers who is five games into his NRL comeback at Cronulla.

Xavier Coates said prior to the game his form didn’t warrant an Origin berth and his performance in Townsville could force selectors into the same line of thinking.

For a player built like a Ferrari, sadly he has been playing like a beat-up old Datsun.

The Blues tormented him in defence. He looked like a kid learning the hokey pokey not knowing when to go in or out or shake it all about.

The sooner he gets under the wing of Craig Bellamy at the Melbourne Storm the better it will be for his career and the Maroons. Until then Queensland should look in a different direction on the wing and possibly hope Titans veteran Corey Thompson makes an accelerated comeback from ankle surgery.

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Whatever direction coach Paul Green takes, it’s clear they need to find an answer to stopping the Trell and Turbo show.  

"We have to find some answers don’t we," Kaufusi said.

"It wasn’t only them, [Brian] To’o on the wing and their whole back five were so hard to handle and got their sets off to good starts and we were just on the back foot from the get-go.

"We have to come up with a game plan to stop that."


The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARL Commission, NRL clubs or state associations.

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