Queensland Maroons Coach Billy Slater’s flawless State of Origin campaign hit its first hurdle last night losing North Queensland tackling terror Reuben Cotter to a hamstring injury during the Cowboy’s warm-up session.
Despite his late withdrawal after, clutching at his upper leg toward the end of the team’s warm-up, the Cowboys were able to pull off an amazing 28-26 comeback win over Manly, scoring three tries in the final 10 minutes after the game looked lost.
Scans since have confirmed Cotter suffered a hamstring tear and will miss the remainder of the Origin series.
Queensland selectors will promote hard-running Brisbane forward Patrick Carrigan to the starting pack with his Brisbane teammate Tom Flegler and South Sydney utility Jai Arrow, who has nine Origin games on his resume already, vying for Carrigan’s bench spot.
Cotter made his debut for Queensland in Origin 1, pushing Cameron Munster for player-of-the-game honours.
The 23-year-old Mackay product made 49 tackles and ran for almost 100-meters in Queensland’s 16-10 victory in Sydney in a debut that drew high praise from Slater and his teammates.
Fortunately for Slater, the Queensland’s Origin program has built up some considerable depth in the past few years and he has a few options to replace Cotter for tomorrow week’s second Origin at Perth’s Optus Stadium.
But Carrigan is expected to be elevated to the fiery opening exchanges with Queensland selectors meeting today to finalise the Maroons bench.
Fearless Sydney Roosters forward Lindsay Collins, one of the unsung heroes of the Sydney win with his tough hard-nosed carries, will now play a big role in Cotter’s absence.
Queensland selectors will reveal their squad on Monday morning with North Queensland’s Murray Taulagi named to make his debut on the wing for injured flyer Xavier Coates (ankle).
The Auckland-born Taulagi beat his Cowboy’s teammate Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, who was concussed after being kneed in the head last night, and Brisbane’s Corey Oates for the job.
Taulagi and Tabuai-Fidow were both members of Slater’s extended squad for Origin 1.
Tabuai-Fidow is a genuine flyer with quick footwork but Taulangi is slightly taller and 14kgs heavier, which may have held sway with selectors given NSW will almost certainly recall try-scoring wizard Josh Addo-Carr for the re-match at Perth’s 60,000-seat Optus Stadium.
Meanwhile, NSW coach Brad Fittler has his own dramas with Jack Wighton, arguably the Blues’ best player in game one, ruled out of the Perth clash with Covid.
He has a ready-made replacement in Stephen Crichton but the chances of brilliant back Latrell Mitchell being fit enough to play after two months on the sidelines with a hamstring injury are extremely doubtful.
Mitchell had been hoping to line up for the Bunnies against the Dragons on Friday night but his absence is a major concern.
Fittler also has to take a look at the make-up of his forward pack after they were outplayed and lacked the usual Origin aggression against Queensland in Origin 1.
Queensland Likely 17 for Origin 2
Kalyn Ponga, Selwyn Cobbo, Valentine Holmes, Dane Gagai, Murray Taulagi, Cameron Munster, Daly Cherry-Evans, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Ben Hunt, Josh Papali’i, Kurt Capewell, Felise Kaufusi, Patrick Carrigan. Res: Harry Grant, Lindsay Collins, Jeremiah Nanai, Tom Flegler. 18th man Jai Arrow.
Queensland set to name strong squad for Origin 1
‘Impressive’ Slater ticking boxes ahead of Origin coaching debut
NRL: Xavier Savage put on notice by Maroons coach Billy Slater
2018 Clive Churchill Medal tips, value and best NRL Grand Final bets
State Of Origin injury news: Billy Slater ruled out of Origin I
NRL Dally M Medal betting, free odds, tips and bookie specials
Storm dominate NRL Grand Final & Churchill Medal markets