Queensland coach Billy Slater has named his starting team for the Origin series opener and a number of new faces are set for a debut.
Six Cowboys have been included in the squad, while a number of incumbents have not been picked in the starting 17.
Here are the winners and losers following Slater’s announcement.
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Todd Payten’s side have been outstanding so far in the 2022 season.
Having six players picked in the new-look Maroons squad is a testament to just how far the North Queensland side has come after finishing in 15th place last year.
The Cowboys face a tricky encounter against the Titans in Round 13, but a number of key players will come away from the Origin period with valuable representative experience.
Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Murray Taulagi will likely be free to play, while Reuben Cotter, Jeremiah Nanai and Tom Dearden will come back better players for the Cowboys run home to finals football.
The 19-year-old Broncos flyer thoroughly deserved selection in the Maroons squad after a number of strong performances.
Cobbo is set to take up a spot on the wing and has been one of Kevin Walters ’best players so far in 2022, having played only 19 career games.
The young gun has scored 10 tries in 12 games as the Broncos find themselves firmly in the top-end of the ladder in fourth place.
Cobbo’s athleticism and sheer pace will be invaluable for the Maroons, who are up against a dynamic and speedy Blues backline.
Reuben Cotter is “everyone’s favorite player” according to Fox League’s Michael Ennis and Queensland coach Billy Slater is clearly a fan.
The Cowboys gun has been named at lock in Slater’s starting forward pack, being rewarded for his strong 2022 form.
Cotter’s passion and desire is perfect for the Origin arena and has earned a deserved debut in Slater’s first Queensland side.
Cotter has played only 31 NRL games, but was “one of the first” to be written down in Slater’s side.
“He has got his own mold of footy and I have been really impressed with Reuben,” Slater said to the media.
“Anyone that has heard me talk about Reuben this year, they understand how important I see his role in the footy team, and he was one of the first guys that I wrote down.”
Hunt has clearly been the Dragons best player in 2022.
The million-dollar man has earned a huge call-up into the Maroons starting side at hooker, named ahead of Storm gun Harry Grant.
The selection comes as a shock to many who believed he was the incumbent No.14, while currently playing as a halfback for Anthony Griffin’s side.
But in Game III of the 2021 Origin series, Hunt was named man of the match, scoring two tries and Billy Slater clearly hasn’t forgotten that performance.
Coach Billy Slater explained that Harry Grant had been suffering from flu and was dealing with a groin injury, leading to Hunt being handed the No.9 jersey.
“First we feel that Ben Hunt has earnt the opportunity to play in the No.9 jersey,” Slater said.
“He has been the Ron McAuliffe Medallist, who is Queensland’s best player, two series out of the last three years, so we feel he has earnt that opportunity.
“Harry is still getting over his groin injury, we feel that he is going to be okay to play but on top of that he has had the flu the last five days.
“I think anyone in the game knows the flu has been going around and has knocked some around for up to a week.
“Harry is actually going to stay in Melbourne until Wednesday, then we are going to bring him up and hopefully he can hit the ground running on Thursday for us.”
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Another Cowboys star, Jeremiah Nanai has been called into Slater’s starting 17.
The 19-year-old has played only 16 NRL games, but his performances in 2022 have seen him earn his first Maroons jumper – which could be the first of many.
Nanai currently sits fifth in the top tryscorers list, recording 10 four-pointers from 12 games.
What makes that statistics even more impressive is that he has done it all from the backrow.
Nanai has been named on the bench and will probably be used to inject some pace and energy late in the first-half in Slater’s side.
“He is a good young man and his performances have earnt him his jersey,” Slater said.
“Not just chasing kicks and scoring tries, he has been doing a lot of work for his team, he made 51 tackles on the weekend in a really tough environment down there at Penrith.
“He really showed some toughness.”
Only a year ago, Tom Dearden was discarded by the Broncos, being allowed to make a mid-season move to the Cowboys.
Now, after a strong start to the 2022 season, the 21-year-old has earned a spot on the Maroons extended bench.
Slater has rewarded Dearden, who has been instrumental in the Cowboys resurgence, named as the replacement player for the opener series.
The million-dollar Titans backrower has been sensationally snubbed from Slater’s Maroons squad.
The 2022 season hasn’t been up to Fifita’s lofty standards, and an MCL sprain kept him from the field for an extended period.
Rugby league fans know just how explosive the 22-year-old can be at his best, and the Titans playmakers have not found the best way to use their gun backrower so far this season.
Fifita could be a victim of the poor form Titans, just like Josh Addo-Carr’s omission after making a switch to the Bulldogs from the Storm.
Jai Arrow has been unable to reclaim his Maroons spot after receiving an infamous Origin ban which kept him out of the game three last year.
The 26-year-old received a $ 35,000 fine for bringing an ‘unregistered guest’ into his team hotel during Covid protocols.
Arrow had reportedly sat down with Slater and Queensland powerbrokers to smooth things over, but hasn’t done enough to earn a selection in the rookie coach’s final 17.
Tom Flegler was named on the bench for game three of last year’s series, but an indifferent start to the 2022 season has seen him lose his bench spot.
When on the field, Flegler is a hardworking and talented forward but has spent extended periods on the sidelines suspended.
At only 22-years of age, the Broncos gun will likely have a long Origin career ahead of him but for now Slater has put him on ice.
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The Titans prop was one of Queensland’s best in the 2021 series loss, coming off the bench in all three games.
Fotuaika’s early 2022 form hasn’t been up to his usual standards and he could be another victim of the poor Titans start to the season.
Again, Fotuaika is only 22 and is likely to suit up in the Maroons jersey again in the future, but his complete omission from the squad will be a shock to many.
Corey Oates was an integral part of the Maroons set-up between 2016 and 2019, having played eight games for Queensland.
The Broncos veteran winger struggled in 2020 and 2021, but has had a major resurgence in form this season.
Oates was tipped by many to find himself on the wing in Billy Slater’s side but missed out as young gun teammate Selwyn Cobbo got the nod.
“Corey Oates is another guy that I have been really impressed with this year, and we have full faith if we had to throw Corey Oates a jersey, we would have full belief and confidence that he could do a job for us,” Slater said. .