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Grant enters long line to be Queensland's nine

I don't envy the job Queensland Maroons coach Kevin Walters has at the end of the year.

He, alongside Maroons selectors Gene Miles, Darren Lockyer and Billy Slater, have the important task of selecting the players empowered to defeat the New South Wales Blues in a rescheduled State of Origin series this November.

And whilst there has been so much talk dominating the media recently about New South Wales being spoilt for choice with their halves... Queensland has a similar situation with the illustrious No. 9 jersey. Especially with 22-year-old Harry Grant relishing his opportunity at Wests Tigers after playing understudy to arguably the greatest rake of all time, Cameron Smith.

At a ripe old age of 20, the game's most-capped Origin player debuted in Game III, 2003 after only 18 first grade games, making the No. 9 jersey his for the next 14 years in a career that also included captaining the Maroons.

I think we all knew Grant was no slouch, earning the hooker spot in last year's Intrust Super Cup Team of the Year, and his four breakout performances this year so far for the Tigers haven't gone unnoticed either, averaging 50 tackles a game and offering that dynamic spark needed in attack.

The hype puts a lot of pressure on a young kid who has only played six first grade games, but following in the footsteps of his rugby league idol, who has helped him finesse his dummy-half craft, could be a very smart move for Queensland's long-term future.

Grant is one of four candidates who are also proving their worthiness, with incumbent hooker Ben Hunt, three-time premiership-winning veteran Jake Friend and young rising star Reed Mahoney also in the mix.

Hunt, Friend and Mahoney were all part of the Queensland Maroons Origin camp in January; Grant was not, but he has no doubt caught Kevie's eye since the return of the NRL.

Ben Hunt

The incumbent No. 9 has had a challenging start to the 2020 season with the St George Illawarra Dragons, but the change by Paul McGregor to play dummy-half off the bench has given him a new lease of life at the Red V. 

Typically a halfback, the 30-year-old has been a recent proven-performer as a rake on the representative stage, starring for both the Maroons and Kangaroos in that position last year.

I have no doubt Hunt will play a role in this year's Origin series, quite possibly as Queensland's all-important utility off the bench.

Jake Friend

Sadly, Friend could quite possibly play over 300 games in his career without pulling on the Maroons jersey.

The Noosa Pirates junior played his 250th Telstra Premiership game at the weekend, and an Origin call-up beckoned last season until a fractured forearm ruled out his chance.

2020 has turned over a new leaf for Friend, who looks fit, fired up and ready to go should Walters opt for an experienced campaigner.

Reed Mahoney

Mahoney is much the same as Grant - a young live-wire who would thrive at his chance to play Origin.

The Parramatta hooker has tasted representative success in 2018 when relieving Grant off the bench in the Queensland Under 20 victory over the Blues.

Whilst he doesn't quite get through as much work defensively as Grant, averaging 40 tackles a game, he knows how to find the try line, scoring two tries this season for the top-of-the-table Eels, making him a formidable candidate to receive a call from Kevie after the season.

The selection headache can only be a good problem to have, and whilst it's only early days, the Origin build-up has begun.... as has the race for Queensland's No. 9.

Grant has been touted a future heir to Smith in Melbourne... will he also be the same for Queensland?