Darius Boyd. Photo: Getty ImagesDarius Boyd has won the battle for the Maroons fullback spot with returning superstar Billy Slater missing selection completely after the Queensland squad was announced in Brisbane on Monday afternoon.
In what was undoubtedly the most difficult call for the selection panel and coach Kevin Walters, Slater will be a spectator for game one despite some sparking form since returning to the Storm from a long-term shoulder injury.
Bill Slater. Photo: Getty Images
In his absence, Boyd has put a stranglehold on the fullback jumper and there was no compelling argument for him to be shifted from his favourite position. Slater played some wing early in his career but specialists Dane Gagai and Corey Oates have been preferred on the Queensland flanks.
With retirement on the horizon, Slater may well have played his final Origin but anything can happen during the series and he would be the first called up should injuries force any sort of backline reshuffle.
But as it stands, Boyd’s powerful returns from fullback and ultra-consistent form at all levels of the game made him a lock at the back for the first instalment of the 2017 series.
Meanwhile, Boyd’s Broncos team-mateAnthony Milford is set to make his State of Origin debut with Jonathan Thurston next to no chance of overcoming a shoulder injury. Milford has been named in the starting line-up with Thurston included as 18th man to give himevery opportunity to prove his fitness.
Johnathan Thurston. Photo: Getty Images
“I believe it’s very unlikely that he’ll [Thurston] play but we’ll give him the chance to prove his fitness throughout the week,” Walters said onSky Sports’ Big Sports Breakfast.
“I don’t think he’ll be fit enough with his shoulder. We’ve got to keep in mind that this is game one of a three-game series.”
Wayne Bennett said he wouldn’t release Milford to Queensland if he was no chance of playing in Origin I.
Should Thurston miss out as expected, a number of Queensland’s leading lights will be missing. Both Matt Scott and Greg Inglis are out with injury, although Cameron Smith seems to be playing as well as ever after he helped steer Melbourne to victory over Souths on Sunday night in Perth.
Justin O’Neill. Photo: Getty Images
Justin O’Neill has been the beneficiary of selection loyalty and had retainedhis place in the centres, while Dylan Napa is one of the new faces in the side as the Rooster gets set to step into the Origin arena.
2017 Queensland State of Origin squad:1. Darius Boyd
2. Corey Oates
3. Will Chambers
4. Justin O’Neill
5. Dane Gagai
6. Anthony Milford
7. Cooper Cronk
8. Dylan Napa
9. Cameron Smith (c)
10. Nate Myles
11. Josh Papalii
12. Matt Gillett
13. Josh McGuire
14. Michael Morgan
15. Sam Thaiday
16. Aidan Guerra
17. Jacob Lillyman
18. Johnathan Thurston
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