QUEENSLAND’S most successful coach Mal Meninga insists Darius Boyd has more to offer the Maroons and has urged the Broncos skipper to consider making a State of Origin comeback this season.
With the Maroons’ backline stocks taking a hit following the retirement of Billy Slater and Valentine Holmes’ defection to American Football, Meninga believes Boyd’s experience would be invaluable as Queensland look to hit back from their 2-1 series loss last season.
Queensland’s first-choice fullback in 2017, Boyd was overlooked for the opening game of last year’s series as he battled a hamstring injury at the Broncos.
That prompted the 31-year-old to announce his retirement from representative football, saying it was time for the Maroons to look to the future by blooding fresh faces.
But the loss of Holmes and Slater has opened up two spots in Queensland’s backline.
Meninga, who handed Boyd his Origin debut, urged the Broncos veteran to throw his hat in the ring to help the next generation.
“Darius has a lot to offer,” said Meninga, who steered the Maroons to a record nine series wins in 10 years between 2006-15.
“He is his own man, which I admire, and he made the decision to retire on his terms.
“I guess Darius will have to make that decision if he’s available again, but he wouldn’t look out of place in an Origin jersey, that’s for sure.”
Meninga blooded Boyd in 2008 and he developed into one of Queensland’s finest servants.
Boyd played 28 games – just two shy of achieving the elite FOGS Statesman Award – and is the second-greatest tryscorer in Origin history, behind Greg Inglis, with 17 four-pointers, including two on debut in a 30-0 thumping of NSW.
Boyd, who turns 32 this July, had a frustrating battle with a hamstring injury that troubled him for the best part of 12 months.
But the 2010 Clive Churchill Medallist has had a bumper pre-season at the Broncos, recording his best GPS training data for almost a decade.
The 292-game NRL ace admits he feels refreshed in body and mind and says while he is currently retired, he will consider an Origin return based on his form this season.
“If I get back to my best, if I’m playing really well and am happy then I might have to reassess then,” he said.
Asked if he retired prematurely from Origin, Boyd said: “It’s hard to say – I haven’t played a game yet.
“I’m really confident in my head and body. I just want to get back to playing my best and playing good footy. This is where my focus is.
“I’m happy with where I’m at, and want to put that out on the field.
“I know I can play at a high level and I want to get back to that.”
Queensland coach Kevin Walters is adamant Maroons selectors have not closed the door on Boyd.
“The ship hasn’t sailed on Darius at all,” Walters said.
“We, as Queensland selectors, never made any decisions around (not picking) Darius and from what I’m reading, he’s in a good headspace again.
“I haven’t spoken to him personally, so we’ll let the season get underway and see how things go.
“But Darius has proven he is a quality player and an elite player at Origin level.
“I wouldn’t say Kalyn (Ponga) is the favourite for the fullback spot at all. We have Greg Inglis there and Darius is an option as well.
“We won the series with Darius at fullback in 2016, so he’s always welcome in the Maroons set up that’s for sure.
“If he wants to play for Queensland again, for sure I would consider him.”