A lot has been spoken about Queensland’s injury toll going into this year’s State of Origin series.
Michael Morgan, Ethan Lowe, Dylan Napa and David Fifita have been all but ruled out of the upcoming series due to season-ending injuries.
The added injury toll comes after experienced campaigners Matt Gillett, Darius Boyd, Billy Slater and Greg Inglis hung up the boots in recent times, leaving a significant void of experience.
However, with adversity comes opportunity for a host of young Queensland-eligible players.
There are seven debutants who I believe are the key to the Maroons success in 2020.
1. Harry Grant - Wests Tigers
After just 16 NRL appearances, the young Wests Tigers dummy half has taken the NRL by storm in his rookie season, and will go close to winning the Dally M medal at the end of the year. Grant would be a great asset coming off the bench with his ability to turn a game on it’s head. Grant has spent time at both hooker and lock for the Tigers, and is currently averaging the highest run metres and tackles per game of any Queensland-eligible hooking option, making him the ideal Origin utility.
2. Jake Friend - Sydney Roosters
The Roosters veteran No.9 has long been in contention for a Maroons jersey and I believe this year is his year to stamp his authority. Friend is an experienced leader, having led the Roosters to back-to-back premierships, and would be a valuable addition to the Maroons spine alongside Daly Cherry-Evans, Cameron Munster and Kalyn Ponga. Friend would be able to absorb the early defensive pressure, which would then provide the ideal platform for Grant to come on and play his natural game.
3. Kurt Capewell - Penrith Panthers
Typically a second row forward, Capewell is no stranger to the centre position having played there at various times throughout his career, for both Cronulla and Penrith. The Panthers forward would cause headaches for the Blues defence with his size, strength, speed and footwork at the line, and provide Dane Gagai with a number of attacking opportunities by attracting multiple defenders at any one time. Capewell averages a 93.4 per cent tackle efficiency and would assist with any defensive pressure on the right edge, which conceded five tries during the 2019 series.
4. Tino Fa'asuamaleaui - Melbourne Storm
The 20-year-old wrecking ball has been causing all sorts of problems for opposition defenders in 2020, and the 107kg forward would be near unstoppable coming off the bench late in the game for the Maroons. Fa’asuamaleaui has scored seven tries this season, and currently averages a huge 132 running metres and 52 post contact metres per game. The young forward shared a similar mentality to David Fifita before he was selected in 2019, declaring his main goal is to play Origin this year.
5. Moeaki Fotuaika - Gold Coast Titans
The Titans youngster, who was given props by coach Kevin Walters in The Courier-Mail, has recently declared his allegiance to Queensland and has been compared to Jason Taumalolo with similar speed, build and footwork to the Cowboys tearaway. Fotuaika has been a revelation for the Gold Coast since making his debut, and consistently maintains a monster work rate, averaging a massive 144 running metres, 36 tackles and 13 hit-ups per game. Fotuaika would provide impact coming off the bench alongside Fa’ausuamaleaui, and would be a handy replacement for Josh Papalii, Jai Arrow or Josh McGuire when they need a breather.
6. Jaydn Su'A - South Sydney Rabbitohs
One could argue Rabbitohs forward Jaydn Su’A is made for Origin. The 22-year-old is the perfect mix of both size and aggression and has been folding opposition players in half all season long. Similar to former Maroons hitman Ben Te’o, Su’A is the type of player who can change the momentum of a game with a massive hit or powerful run. The injury to Fifita has created a vacancy in the back row for Queensland, and I believe Su’A would be the perfect replacement if given the opportunity.
7. AJ Brimson - Gold Coast Titans
In-form AJ Brimson is quite simply a great player. You want a player at centre who is a game breaker, can create attacking opportunities, and is a strong defender. Brimson has all of those qualities and despite predominately playing fullback or in the halves, I believe the Titans outside back would make a great make-shift centre. Brimson is currently leading the competition in line breaks per game, and is statistically the best defensive fullback in the competition, with a 85 per cent tackle efficiency.
My predicted Maroons side
- Kalyn Ponga
- Val Holmes
- AJ Brimson *
- Kurt Capewell *
- Dane Gagai
- Cam Munster
- Daly Cherry-Evans (C)
- Josh McGuire
- Jake Friend *
- Josh Papalii
- Jaydn Su'A *
- Felise Kaufusi
- Jai Arrow
- Harry Grant *
- Tino Fa’asuamaleaui *
- Moeaki Fotuaika *
- Christian Welch
* Denotes Origin debutant
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