Chairman of selectors Gene Miles was still grappling with the omission of Maroons legend Billy Slater from this year’s Origin opener, the Former Origin Great told Peter Psaltis of QRL Media at the 2017 series launch at City Hall on Tuesday night (May 23).
“Without doubt the toughest decision that I think any panel I’ve been involved with has had to make,” Miles said of overlooking the champion fullback in favour of Bronco Darius Boyd.
“It still doesn’t sit too well with me, knowing that we’ve left out a guy who’s played 27 State of Origins and performed remarkably for Queensland, and has never let Queensland down.
“(But) then again, Darius has had a fantastic couple of years, won the Ron McAuliffe medal for the 2016 series, accepted the Broncos leadership role as captain, handled that very well, and playing extremely well, so he got our nod,” said Miles, who ran out 23 times in the Maroon jersey.
Slater had the Maroons fullback position locked up but missed the 2016 series due to injury.
Miles said the selectors were injecting youth into the team to prepare for the future.
“It’s important that we start transitioning more young guys into this side so they can benefit from the wealth of knowledge that these guys could share with them in the short period of time that they are in camp.
“Hence Oats and Gagai on the wings, they did a fantastic job for us last year, never let us down. Just for their confidence-wise and going forward and Queensland’s future they got the nod as well.”
Miles praised Maroons skipper Cameron Smith, who was set to play his 40th Origin on Wednesday. “I only think there’ll be one member of that club - while I’m alive anyway.
“Take into consideration, he plays 80 minutes, he kicks for the line, he touches the ball more than any person, knocks up 50-odd tackles per game, and still has time to organise the team as well.”
Queensland hosts Game I of State of Origin at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday, May 31.