First-timers have earned shot, says Walters

Queensland coach Kevin Walters says the two debutants he has selected deserve their chance to prove themselves at State of Origin level, and the 48-year-old Maroons coach should know having coached both at club level.

Brisbane Broncos winger Corey Oates and North Queensland Cowboys centre Justin O'Neill will make their XXXX Queensland debuts in Game I of the series on June 1 at ANZ Stadium in Sydney.

"I'm very happy with the squad. The guys that have come in have really earned their positions in the side," Walters said. 

"It's been a team that's been hard to get into over the years because of our success, but given the injuries to Billy [Slater] and Will Chambers, plus the retirement of Justin Hodges, the door has opened up.

"I'm very happy to see those two boys in the team. They've worked very hard throughout their careers to get into this position. “

Walters' tenure as assistant coach at the Melbourne Storm saw him work with O'Neill between 2011 and 2013, before reuniting with Wayne Bennett at the Broncos, taking on an assistant coaching role at the club for the 2015 season.

The return of Walters to the club he made his name at as a player coincided with the year Oates started to become a household name in rugby league circles, and at just 21 years old the winger looks set to have a long representative career ahead of him.

Walters said it was now time for the debutants to repay the faith and perform come this year's series opener.

"Now it's up to them to do themselves and their teammates proud come Wednesday week."

Perhaps the unluckiest player in Queensland's selection announcement is stalwart Jacob Lillyman.

Lillyman made his debut for Queensland in 2006 and the Warriors prop has since played 11 games for his state.

He played every game of the 2015 series win but that will not be happening this year, with the veteran named as 18th man.

The return of Brisbane prop Josh McGuire from an Achilles injury that sidelined him for both Game II and Game Three of the 2015 series means Lillyman is the unlucky one to miss out.

Walters has selected Raiders second-rower Josh Papalii on the bench to accompany McGuire after Papalii started for Australia in the Anzac Test and played Game Three of last year's series. 

"Unfortunately Jacob is the 18th man," the Queensland coach said.

"The Test team that was picked a few weeks ago had a strong Queensland flavour, particularly through the forwards.

"I found it difficult to leave those guys out because they all played well in the Test and their club form has been really good.

"Jacob will no doubt play a big part of this series at some stage."

*This first appeared on NRL.com

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