Slater’s ‘Sunday build’ will have Maroons set to fire

Joel Gould |

The State of Origin squad picked will do Queensland proud, coach Billy Slater says.
The State of Origin squad picked will do Queensland proud, coach Billy Slater says.

Billy Slater has vowed to select 17 players ready to do Queensland proud in State of Origin, no matter who is unavailable due to injury.

The Queensland Rugby League (QRL) will announce the Maroons side on Monday morning, after coach Slater and fellow selectors Gene Miles and Darren Lockyer pick the squad on Sunday night for the series opener in Sydney.

Melbourne five-eighth Cameron Munster (groin) has been ruled out of the entire series, with North Queensland co-captain Tom Dearden in line to fill the breach and Brisbane No.6  Ezra Mam waiting in the wings.

Key forwards Tino Fa’asuamalaeui and Tom Gilbert are out for the season with knee injuries while Dolphins prop Thomas Flegler (shoulder) is also expected to miss the series. 

That has opened the door for Parramatta lock J’maine Hopgood and Broncos prop Corey Jensen to stake their claim for an Origin debut.

Cameron Munster hobbles off for the Storm.
The loss of Melbourne’s Cameron Munster (centre) was a blow to Queensland’s Origin hopes. (Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS)

“We will select 17 fit, healthy and passionate Queenslanders ready to represent the people of our state,” Slater told AAP.

“There are always players unavailable and always players that haven’t played before who are pushing their claims through performances.

“I genuinely don’t look at who is not there – I focus on who is there.

“Queensland was OK when Darren Lockyer retired. Queensland was OK when Cameron Smith retired. Queensland will be OK.

“There are a number of players that are performing to the standard of this team that can play in different positions.”

The Maroons side will not be locked in until Slater and the selectors get the lowdown from clubs on player availability at the completion of round 12.

Slater and his selectors have a strong idea of who they will select but must wait until after the Warriors v Dolphins clash on Sunday afternoon before finalising their squad.

Brisbane Broncos prop Corey Jensen.
Brisbane prop Corey Jensen is among the players in line for an Origin debut with Queensland. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

“My role is to build it on Sunday night. You don’t build it a week or month before,” Slater said.

“Sure, you are watching players and you have an idea or opinion – but it is important to be patient.

“The players have a commitment to their clubs this weekend and they will fulfil those duties. 

“We will watch them intently and their habits and the performances they outlay.

“There is no Queenslander playing in the NRL that I haven’t watched closely. I have filed the performances in my memory.”

Slater said his heart went out to the injured Munster.

“I know how much he cares about his footy and cares about his Queensland jersey – how proud he is of his performance,” Slater said. 

“All of our players that have had series-ending injuries, and there are a number of them, I feel for all of them because I know how much they put into their careers and how much they want to be part of this footy team.”