New Queensland coach Billy Slater has named four debutants in his squad for this year’s State of Origin series opener, including teenager Selwyn Cobbo, as NSW coach Brad Fittler made the brutal call to drop Josh Addo-Carr and hand Daniel Tupou a recall.
Brisbane winger Cobbo, who has scored 10 tries in his past six NRL games, won a hotly-contested race for a spot in the Maroons’ backline ahead of teammate Corey Oates and North Queensland pair Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Murray Taulagi.
Oates has not made Slater’s extended 22-player squad but there are spots on the reserves for Tabuai-Fidow and Taulagi. As well as 19-year-old Cobbo, Cowboy Reuben Cotter will make his first Origin appearance at lock while Pat Carrigan and Jeremiah Nanai are both set to debut for their state from the interchange bench.
The in-form Cowboys have a total of six players in the squad with Valentine Holmes at centre and Tom Dearden joining Tabuai-Fidow and Taulagi in the reserves list. Gold Coast captain Tino Fa’asuamaleaui will start in the front row but Slater has overlooked Titans’ teammates Moeaki Fotuaika and David Fifita.
Cotter’s selection means there is also no place for South Sydney’s Jai Arrow, who is among the reserves. St George Illawarra captain Ben Hunt has also been named at hooker, with Melbourne’s Harry Grant in the utility role.
The Maroons will assemble in Brisbane on Monday before travelling to the Gold Coast for their training camp ahead of game one at Accor Stadium in Sydney on 8 June.
NSW coach Fittler unveiled his 22-man squad in alphabetical order for next week’s series opener with Stephen Crichton and Kotoni Staggs both set to debut in the centres. Parramatta backrower Ryan Matterson and Cronulla star Nicho Hynes also loom as debutants off the bench, with Jack Wighton to be demoted to the reserves and Angus Crichton overlooked.
Manly favourite Jake Trbojevic is missing for the first time when fit during Fittler’s four-series reign, while Liam Martin is also only expected to be a reserve after playing all three games last year. Instead, Tyson Frizell and Reagan Campbell-Gillard have both won back their Blues jerseys, with Tariq Sims also retained alongside Cameron Murray in the back row.
Fittler has also kept the faith in Payne Haas, confident he can put the distractions of his Brisbane contract dramas to the side for the Blues. The majority of hard-luck stories revolved around players at battling clubs, with a knee injury also killing off Newcastle forward Daniel Saifiti’s hopes.
But it is former Melbourne-turned-Canterbury flyer Addo-Carr who can consider himself the unluckiest man, given he has scored 10 tries in 12 games for NSW and sits second all-time for the state. Ultimately though, Fittler needed an answer to Queensland’s high-flying wingers Coates and Cobbo.
Queensland: Kalyn Ponga, Selwyn Cobbo, Valentine Holmes, Dane Gagai, Xavier Coates, Cameron Munster, Daly Cherry-Evans (captain), Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Ben Hunt, Josh Papalii, Kurt Capewell, Felise Kaufusi, Reuben Cotter. Interchange: Harry Grant, Lindsay Collins, Patrick Carrigan, Jeremiah Nanai. Reserves: Tom Dearden, Jai Arrow, Thomas Flegler, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Murray Taulagi.
NSW: James Tedesco (captain), Brian To’o, Stephen Crichton, Kotoni Staggs, Daniel Tupou, Jarome Luai, Nathan Cleary, Junior Paulo, Damien Cook, Payne Haas, Tariq Sims, Cameron Murray Isaah Yeo, Nicho Hynes, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Ryan Matterson, Tyson Frizell, Jack Wighton, Apisai Koroisau, Joseph Suaalii, Liam Martin, Jacob Saifiti.