Queensland Origin predictions: Who's safe, under pressure and no chance

Queensland's changing of the guard away from the dynastic teams of 2006 to 2017 was all but complete last year and there were certainly some bright spots among the Origin debutants despite the 2-1 series loss.

However a fresh wave of injuries and form concerns over some incumbents has handed Maroon coach Kevin Walters a huge amount of uncertainty just a month out from team selections.

At least three of last year's game three side will be unavailable and four or five more have huge question marks over their positions.

Fullback: Billy Slater

No doubt one of Queensland's greatest ever players, Slater retired from rep football and the NRL last year. Knights custodian Kalyn Ponga – who debuted last year but missed game three through injury – shapes as the logical replacement.

Verdict: gone

Left wing: Valentine Holmes

Holmes' decision to chase an opportunity in the NFL robs the Maroons of one of their most dangerous backs. Certainly would have been picked if available.

Verdict: gone

Left centre: Dane Gagai

Gagai is playing solid rather than spectacular footy for Souths but with Holmes, Slater and Greg Inglis gone from last year's series plus Gagai's record of producing his best in Origin, there is no question he will be involved. Currently a right centre for Souths and traditionally a winger for Queensland, it is not yet clear where he'll line up but he'll be there.

Verdict: safe

Right centre: Will Chambers

Definitely came off second best in the battle with Latrell Mitchell in last year's series but has been a top-class centre for a long time and is in good form for heavyweights Melbourne.

Verdict: safe

Right wing: Corey Oates

Oates has mostly been in good touch for Brisbane (barring one horror outing against the Roosters) and his size and power out wide are an even more important component in Origin than in week to week NRL. With Holmes already out Oates becomes even more important.

Verdict: safe

Five-eighth: Cameron Munster

Just four games into his Origin career Munster shapes as Queensland's most important player and a possible captain. Is one of the form players in the competition at club level as well.

Verdict: safe

Halfback: Daly Cherry-Evans

The ankle injury to Cherry-Evans is a huge blow to Walters's planning. Was brought back in for game three last year once the series was lost with immediate effect. Had been in career-best form for Manly until hurting his ankle against Canberra and was shaping as a captaincy candidate for Queensland. Is no chance of further game time before game one teams are announced but is hoping to make a rapid return to prove his fitness.

Verdict: All but gone

Prop: Jai Arrow

Elevated to the starting side in his third Origin last year and relished the responsibility, proving one of the best forwards on the park. Has been a rare bright light for the Titans this year and is made for Origin. Won't necessarily start at prop on June 5 but will be in the team.

Verdict: safe

Hooker: Andrew McCullough

The long-serving Brisbane rake was serviceable in the first Origin series of the post-Cameron Smith era without really putting his stamp on things. Is struggling for form at an under-performing Brisbane this year and was facing a monstrous challenge for his spot from Jake Friend until the Roosters rake's unfortunate biceps injury put him out of contention. Could lose the spot to Dragons halfback Ben Hunt and needs to show something over the next month to retain his spot – a mission which got underway with an improved effort against Cronulla in round seven.

Verdict: under pressure

Match: Maroons v Blues

Game 1 -

Full Time
Maroons

Home Team

Maroons

Scored 18 points
Blues

Away Team

Blues

Scored 14 points

Venue: Suncorp Stadium

Match broadcasters:

  • Nine Network

Prop: Josh Papalii

Relishing a full-time move to prop at Canberra this year and generally a reliable performer at Origin level. With question marks elsewhere in the pack Papalii presents some welcome stability.

Verdict: safe

Left-edge second-row: Gavin Cooper

A late bloomer in Origin terms who hasn't let the Maroons down in his six games, the 33-year-old veteran faces an uphill battle to retain his spot thanks to the invincible for known as Father Time and the awful form of club side North Queensland.

Verdict: under pressure

Right-edge second-row: Felise Kaufusi

A consistent performer who has been excellent for Melbourne this year and was good for Queensland and Australia last year, Kaufusi can expect to add to his three Origin caps on June 5.

Verdict: safe

Lock: Josh McGuire

One of the few forwards really putting his hand up at the Cowboys in the absence of Jason Taumalolo, he has played the past nine Origins straight. Brings plenty of both mongrel and experience to a Queensland side that needs as much of each as it can get.

Verdict: safe

Interchange: Ben Hunt

The importance of the St George Illawarra halfback to the Maroons this year has skyrocketed since the injuries to Cherry-Evans and Friend. Walters could theoretically have used Munster, Cherry-Evans and Friend in the starting side with Michael Morgan as a utility but Hunt is now likely to at least retain his bench role if not run on at hooker. His club form has mostly been very good and he has looked the best at rep level when relieved of the responsibility of having to run the team.

Verdict: all but safe

Interchange: Jarrod Wallace

Titans prop Wallace was fairly anonymous in last year's Origin series and started 2019 in similar fashion for the Titans. Easily his best game came in the round-five win over Penrith but he unfortunately picked up a two-game suspension as well. Will benefit from a lack of pressure being applied elsewhere, though Melbourne's Christian Welch has serious claims, Canterbury's Dylan Napa is close to a return to play and Joe Ofahengaue has been touted.

Verdict: under pressure

Interchange: Coen Hess

A puzzling drop in form for the powerhouse Cowboys second-rower has him under plenty of pressure to retain his spot. His club's woes won't work in his favour though like Wallace, he doesn't have a battery of rivals kicking down the door. At 22 years of age and with five straight Origins since his 2017 debut he is worth persisting with.

Verdict: under pressure

Interchange: Tim Glasby

Storm-turned-Knights forward Glasby has had an interesting Origin career - brought in for Origin II in 2017 after a horror game-one loss, he helped the Maroons to a 2-1 come-from-behind series win. He missed the start of the 2018 series with a broken thumb and, with the series lost, came back for the game-three dead rubber and helped his state to another win. He sits on a perfect 3-0 record across his two series and has never let the Maroons down. His club has certainly struggled this year but Glasby's form has been solid.

Verdict: probably safe

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.