Dearden set for Origin recall in new-look Maroons team

Joel Gould |

Tom Dearden is expected to replace injured Cameron Munster for Queensland in the Origin opener.
Tom Dearden is expected to replace injured Cameron Munster for Queensland in the Origin opener.

Tom Dearden is closing in on a Queensland recall as Maroons coach Billy Slater prepares to select his new-look team for the State of Origin series opener.

AAP understands North Queensland playmaker Dearden is on track to edge out Brisbane’s Ezra Mam for the No.6 jersey vacated by the injured Cameron Munster.

Slater and fellow selectors Gene Miles and Darren Lockyer will pick the team on Sunday night before it is named on Monday morning on the Queensland Rugby League (QRL) website.

Dearden, 23, did a fabulous job on Origin debut in game three of the 2022 series where he got late notice that Munster was out of the game. He helped guide the Maroons to a 22-12 win.

Mam has been in electric form for the Broncos and announced himself as a big-game player by scoring three tries in last year’s NRL grand final.

Mam
Ezra Mam has been impressive for the Broncos. (Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS)

“Tommy is a competitor. He has been there before in an unbelievable debut and earned the right to be there,” former Maroons centre Brent Tate told AAP.

“Ezra is tough and he has got X-factor. When they name the team on Monday – whether it is Tommy or Ezra – I will understand why they went that way.

“Honestly you are splitting hairs between the two of them.

“They both deserve it. We are spoilt for choice there.”

The Maroons are depleted in the middle forwards, with Tom Gilbert and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui out with season-ending knee injuries.

Dolphins prop Tom Flegler is also unavailable with a shoulder injury.

Parramatta lock J’maine Hopgood is in the frame for a debut while St George Illawarra powerhouse Jayden Su’A has put his hand up for a recall.

Hopgood
J’maine Hopgood has staked his Origin claim with his efforts for Parramatta. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

“I know Billy is looking at quite a few guys like Hopgood,” Lockyer said.

“The guys in the frame Billy is talking to and giving them an idea of what he is looking for.”

AAP understands Brisbane prop Corey Jensen is knocking on the door for at least a spot on an extended bench.

Slater told AAP he would convene with Miles and Lockyer after the Warriors v Dolphins clash on Sunday night to finalise the squad.

“That’s when you get the information on the players available and the health of those players,” Slater said.

“Then you can make an educated decision. Everyone has their opinions. The only difference with the selectors and myself is that we have to make that decision. It is important to a lot of people and we take that responsibility highly.

“That is why it is hard to name any individuals (as being certainties) because you just don’t know until we get to that Sunday night.”

AAP