XXXX Queensland Maroons coach Kevin Walters has said today that Greg Inglis, Darius Boyd and Ben Barba are all front-of-mind to wear the No.1 for Queensland in this year’s Origin series.
Speaking at today’s XXXX Maroons Gladstone Fan Day announcement at Brisbane Airport, Walters said that while the recent injury to the resurgent Billy Slater was a blow, the team has plenty of options at the back.
"Greg obviously played in last year’s Game 3 and from memory had a pretty fair game, so he’d be one that'd come into calculations. Darius Boyd is in some good form for the Broncos and Ben Barba as well has started the year strongly for the Sharks.
“At this stage we're still 11 weeks away Origin, but we’ve got some good options to shift back there, which would open up an opportunity for someone. Who that person is we just don’t know yet.”
While Cameron Munster is not available for selection this year, Walters believes that Munster may not have jumped ahead of the incumbent players anyway. “I certainly believe that first cab off the rank will be either Greg or Darius. [Munster] will get his opportunity if he continues to play well next season.”
Face with what could be a tough choice to make, Walters is not looking to split the role between Inglis and Boyd.
The dark horse, however, could be Ben Barba, and the Maroons mentor admitted that the Sharks No.1 is on his radar. “He’s impressed with what he’s done at the Sharks so far this year - he looks a lot fitter, a lot trimmer and he’s warming to the role of fullback. I think once he gets a bit more football under his belt, we all know what an exciting player he can be.”
Waters spoke to a devastated Billy Slater after his recent injury and admitted that the star fullback immediately feared the worst. “Billy was obviously extremely disappointed. I think he was pretty much aware [on the field] of how bad the situation was. Generally players know if it’s something a little bit niggly or something more serious."
Despite a possible forced reshuffle in 2016, Walters said he is not looking at making wholesale changes to a winning side. “I’m a very loyal person myself, and Mal was as well. It’ll be up to those 17 players to play their way out of a jersey more than into one. They’ll have every opportunity over the next 11 weeks to prove their worth.”