Walters hopeful to gain back fit Slater
Queensland coach Kevin Walters indicated veterans Billy Slater and Matt Scott will be recalled for the second of State of Origin if they are fit, while also refusing to rule out selecting rookie sensation Kalyn Ponga.
Slater withdrew from the series opener, won 22-12 by NSW at the MCG on Wednesday night, with a hamstring injury, while Scott was overlooked due to concerns about his fitness after undergoing a knee reconstruction last season.
However, Walters said he would monitor the fitness and form of the pair before choosing his team for Origin II at ANZ Stadium on June 24, while Ponga will also come under consideration after being 18th man in the series opener.
“We said from the outset that Scotty wasn’t in Game I because we felt he wasn’t quite right with his knee and obviously, there are a couple of club rounds to get through and if he can come up strong in those games he is every chance of playing,” Walters said of the Cowboys prop.
Asked about Ponga, who has been arguably the form player of the NRL for Newcastle this season, Walters said he was hoping Slater would be fit for Origin II.
However, he said the teenage fullback would get his chance at some stage this season or next year.
"He is ready, it is just a matter of what happens the next few weeks," Walters said. "We are still hoping to get Bill back, and Kalyn, it was his first experience at Origin level as the 18th man.
"We would expect him to play some sort of role at Origin, whether it is Game II, Game III or in 2019. He is a talented player, there is no doubt about that."
With Slater ruled out on Monday and halfback Ben Hunt unable to train last week due to a corked thigh, the Maroons had a disrupted preparation. Half Anthony Milford only joined the team 48 hours before the match.
As a result, Walters was confident the combination between Hunt, five-eighth Cameron Munster and hooker Andrew McCullough would improve in Origin II on June 24 in Sydney.
Centre Will Chambers will be available for that game - and more importantly Sunday's club game for Storm against the Broncos - if he pleads guilty to a grade one dangerous contact charge on Blues hooker Damien Cook.
"We just didn't rise up to where we wanted to be from a smarts point of view," Walters said.
"I thought our effort was what you expect from a Queensland team and I have seen lesser efforts get rewarded with a win in Origin.
"I thought we got some good opportunities to do some different plays we worked on but we just didn't quite get into the rhythm of the game.
"We had a mixed preparation with Benny Hunt not training during the week and Benny and Cameron haven't played a lot of footy together. They are good players, we love what they can do, and they will be better in Game II."
Walters praised captain Greg Inglis, saying: "I thought Greg was our best player, if we had 17 Greg Inglis's we probably would have won that game."
Inglis tried to inspire his team with some brutal hits in defence. But after taking the lead for the first time when winger Dane Gagai scored off a Hunt grubber in the 43rd minute, the Maroons conceded two tries in the next eight minutes.
Walters was confident his team would bounce back in Origin II as they did last year after losing the 2018 series opener.
"That little period there for NSW was quite damaging for us, we scored a great try and had a great start to the second half but then conceded two and it is very hard in Origin when you are chasing," Walters said.
"This time last year we were in a much worse place, I think, from a Queensland point of view. We got ourselves belted comprehensively and we managed to address that and fix it up."
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