After winning the series 2-1 in 2022, Queensland coach Billy Slater is likely to stick strong and pick a similar team for State of Origin this year. The biggest question mark surrounds whether Kalyn Ponga will retain his place, or if red-hot Broncos fullback Reece Walsh comes in.
There are also a number of players fighting for the wing spots, while Slater faces a few tough calls regarding his forward pack and bench. Check out our predicted Queensland team for Game I below:
Fullback – Kalyn Ponga
There’s no denying that Walsh has been one of the hottest players in the NRL so far in 2023. Ponga has missed a number of games due to concussion and hasn’t exactly set the world in fire at five-eighth for the Knights. But Queensland and Slater are known for their loyalty and Ponga will be rewarded for his incredible performance in Game III last year when he won man-of-the-match honours as the Maroons clinched the series.
Wing – Selwyn Cobbo
The Broncos winger played all three games last year and continues to improve. Cobbo has been in similar form to Walsh for the ladder-leading Broncos.
Centre – Valentine Holmes
Despite the Cowboys sitting in 16th spot on the ladder at 3-6 after nine rounds, Holmes will once again get the nod. The dynamic centre has performed time and time again for Queensland at Origin level.
Centre – Dane Gagai
The Knights centre is in a similar situation to Holmes and hasn’t been able to help his club side make their way up the ladder. But Gagai has been one of Queensland’s best and most consistent players for the last five years.
Wing – Murray Taulagi
Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Xavier Coates could easily find their way into the side, but Taulagi has the advantage of playing with Holmes at club level. The Cowboys winger has also suffered a dip in form this year, but shapes as Slater’s first choice.
Five-eighth – Cameron Munster
The best five-eighth in the competition. Will be the first player picked by Slater.
Halfback – Daly Cherry-Evans
The Queensland captain is back for another year of Origin football after leading his side to glory in 2022. There’s no real competition for his spot.
Prop – Tino Fa’asuamaleaui
The Titans captain has gone to another level over the last two years and will likely start in the front row for Slater.
Hooker – Ben Hunt
While Harry Grant is clearly the best Queensland hooker going around, Slater opted to start Hunt in 2022 and bring Grant off the bench. The coach is likely to go the same way this year, despite some indifferent form from Hunt at the Dragons.
Prop – Josh Papali’i
Slater’s loyalty will also likely see Papali’i picked again this year. The Raiders dynamo has also seen his form drop off recently, but has a plethora of Origin experience.
Second row – David Fifita
The rampaging forward was overlooked by Slater in 2022 due to some inconsistent form for the Titans. However he’s back to his barnstorming best in 2023 and could come straight back into the starting team.
Second row – Felise Kaufusi
The veteran always goes to another level come Origin time and has been instrumental in the Dolphins’ surprising start to their inaugural season.
Lock – Patrick Carrigan
The Broncos captain won player of the series in 2022 and will also be one of the first picked.
Interchange – Harry Grant
As we touched on above, Slater likes to bring Grant on after about 20 minutes when the forwards are tiring around the middle of the ruck. He is sure to wreak more havoc this year.
Interchange – Kurt Capewell
The Panthers back-rower started every game for Queensland last year and will provide cover in the outside backs if there is an injury.
Interchange – Lindsay Collins
The Roosters player has gone to new levels in the last few years and was brilliant for Queensland in 2022.
Interchange – Reuben Cotter
Cotter has also dipped in form along with a number of Cowboys teammates, but looks likely to get the nod on the bench. Slater also has the luxury of picking from the likes of Jai Arrow, Tom Gilbert, Thomas Flegler and Jeremiah Nanai.
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