Queensland Maroons 2024 State of Origin predicted team: Slater set to make changes after injuries sideline certain selections


The only real selection debate for Billy Slater has been settled by Kalyn Ponga’s untimely foot injury.

Newcastle’s captain was probably unlikely to get the nod ahead of Reece Walsh for the Queensland fullback jersey in Origin I but Slater was keeping his options open heading into this year’s series.

Ponga is likely to miss most of the season, including the entire Origin series, with his ligament issue and Walsh, who missed the final game last year due to suspension, will reclaim the No.1 jersey from Gold Coast’s AJ Brimson. 

The early return of Jai Arrow this Friday from a shoulder injury is potentially a big boost for Slater’s pack after Tom Gilbert and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui were ruled out with season-ending injuries. 

Slater is likely to blood a new forward or two for the Accor Stadium showdown with NSW on June 5 with Eels lock J’maine Hopgood, North Queensland’s Heilum Luki and Titans second-rower Beau Fermor a chance of making their debut. 

More experienced forwards Tom Flegler, Francis Molo, Moeaki Fotuaika and Christian Welch are also in the mix for the bench berths. 

“We don’t just bring players in (to camp) for an experience. We bring them in because of the quality of football they are playing and because it is to the standard this group has created,” Slater said.

“Guys like J’maine Hopgood who weren’t in the team are obviously playing to that standard at their club. It is a position, in the middle of the field, that has been quite competitive for Queensland over the last few years.

“There is Christian Welch, Mo Fotuaika and even Francis Molo, who is doing a really good job for the Dragons. There is opportunity when injury comes and you have to be ready to walk through the door when it opens.”

Dolphins speedster Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow is holding out hope of making an early comeback from a hamstring injury by the time Queensland name their team after Round 12 in just over a month.

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Last year’s team

Origin III 
1 AJ Brimson 
2 Xavier Coates
3 Valentine Holmes
4 Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow
5 Murray Taulagi
6 Cameron Munster
7 Daly Cherry-Evans
8 Reuben Cotter
9 Harry Grant
10 Tino Fa’asuamaleaui
11 David Fifita
12 Jeremiah Nanai
13 Patrick Carrigan
14 Ben Hunt
15 Lindsay Collins
16 Moeaki Fotuaika 
17 Corey Horsburgh

Brimson will make way for Walsh at the back, Fa’asuamaleaui is sidelined until next year with a torn ACL and Corey Horsburgh is struggling to mount a case for selection due to a groin injury, but the rest of Slater’s squad should be available.

Carrigan could be switched up front to prop to take on the Fa’asuamaleaui role of being the team’s main aggressor.

The spine

You can lock it in that, barring injuries, Walsh will be at the back, Cameron Munster and Daly Cherry-Evans will combine in the halves with Ben Hunt and Harry Grant sharing the hooking duties. 

Tom Dearden put in an exemplary debut two years ago at five-eighth when Munster was out but will again be warming the bench in jersey No.18.

The backs

Tabuai-Fidow has been electric at centre for the Maroons over the past couple of years but even if he can’t get back from his hamstring problem in time, Slater has Selwyn Cobbo at the ready.

Cobbo has made a great fist of his switch in from the wing at the Broncos this season and will partner Valentine Holmes in the centres if the Hammer can’t nail down his fitness. 

Xavier Coates and Murray Taulagi are the first-choice options on the flanks although the latter could be squeezed out if Cobbo is not needed at centre.

Reece Walsh. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

The pack

David Fifita and Jeremiah Nanai haven’t been at their absolute best at club level this season but have the ability to rise to the occasion for Origin. 

Cotter is a proven 80-minute performer for Queensland while Lindsay Collins has developed into one of the top five props in the NRL at the Roosters. 

The only real question facing Slater is whether he ushers in some new blood on his bench by picking Hopgood, Luki or Fermor or sticks with players who have been there and done that like Fotuaika and Welch. 

Flegler is all but certain to be one of the planks of the middle-forward rotation and could even be used as a starter while Hopgood’s ability to switch to an edge could give him an advantage over other options for a bench spot.

Possible Maroons team

1 Reece Walsh
2 Xavier Coates
3 Valentine Holmes
4 Selwyn Cobbo/Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow
5 Murray Taulagi/Cobbo
6 Cameron Munster
7 Daly Cherry-Evans
8 Patrick Carrigan
9 Ben Hunt
10 Lindsay Collins
11 David Fifita
12 Jeremiah Nanai
13 Reuben Cotter
14 Harry Grant
15 Tom Flegler
16 Moeaki Fotuaika 
17 J’maine Hopgood
18 Tom Dearden

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