Queensland has landed some significant wins in this year’s State of Origin series before Paul Green’s Maroons even take the field.
Green on Monday announced a 20-man Maroons squad for his first game as Maroons coach, with Parramatta hooker Reed Mahoney and Cowboys premiership winger Kyle Feldt the new faces.
While there are clouds over the final make-up of the starting 17 for June, Queensland received a huge boost with all three of Queensland’s key injury concerns declaring they will be fit to line up against the Blues.
Last year’s Wally Lewis Medal winner Cameron Munster (foot), hooker Harry Grant (hamstring) and fullback Kalyn Ponga (groin) insist they will be ready to face the Blues, despite all three not having played a game in weeks.
But any concerns over a lack of match-fitness will be alleviated by the massive injection of class the trio brings to the Queensland spine, joining Maroons skipper Daly Cherry-Evans in a lethal attacking quartet.
While the inclusion of Munster, Ponga and Grant is a huge boost for the Maroons, Queensland recorded another significant pre-game victory, with Townsville winning the race to host Origin I.
Originally scheduled for the MCG, a new venue had to be found after Melbourne went into another Covid lockdown, and Townsville will now become the first regional city to host an Origin game.
It is a “full-circle” moment for Green, who wrote himself into North Queensland folklore in 2015 when he coached the Cowboys to their maiden premiership victory.
It is also a terrific reward for the passionate rugby league faithful of the north to have the game’s showpiece in their backyard.
Queensland’s against-the-odds series win last year has given Green a wonderful platform to build on for this year’s campaign, with AJ Brimson, Kurt Capewell, Xavier Coates, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Moeaki Fotuaika, Harry Grant and Jaydn Su’a all recalled for the Maroons after being handed debuts by Wayne Bennett in 2020.
Green will bring a powerful engine room to Townsville, with in-form Christian Welch, Jai Arrow, Fa’asuamaleaui and Fotuaika bringing the grunt in the middle, and game-breakers Felise Kaufusi and David Fifita on the edges.
Kaufusi has a date with the NRL judiciary on a tripping charge, and will be replaced by Su’a if he is suspended.
Skipper Cherry-Evans, at the heart of Manly’s recent mid-season revival, will again be in the No.7 jersey, partnering Munster in the halves.
Capewell will hopefully bring some of Penrith’s unbeaten magic with him to Maroons camp as he follows his stellar debut series last year with another stint in the centres for Queensland, alongside Origin specialist Dane Gagai.
Match-winners Ponga, Val Holmes and Coates will be Queensland’s back three.
Likely Queensland team, Origin I: Kalyn Ponga, Valentine Holmes, Dane Gagai, Kurt Capewell, Xavier Coates, Cameron Munster, Daly Cherry-Evans (c), Christian Welch, Harry Grant, Jai Arrow, David Fifita, Felise Kaufusi, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui. Interchange: AJ Brimson, Moeaki Fotuaika, Joe Ofahengaue, Jaydn Su’A. Reserves: Reed Mahoney, Coen Hess, Kyle Feldt.