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Queensland set to name strong squad for Origin 1

The Maroons are set to announce their squad for Game 1 of State of Origin on Monday.

Queensland selectors are expected to hand rookie coach Billy Slater a strong squad for his State of Origin debut against NSW next month which is likely to include as many as four exciting rookies.

The 22-man Maroons squad will be selected and named on Monday.

Selector’s chairman, Gene Miles, former Queensland great Darren Lockyer, and Slater, who is believed to have consulted with his coaching assistants Cam Smith and Johnathan Thurston about the team’s make-up, will finalise the squad after the completion of NRL round 12.

However, dynamic Brisbane Broncos teenage winger Selwyn Cobbo is understood to have demanded selection after just 19 NRL games and crossing for 12 tries in his brief but stunning career.

Any doubts about him being able to handle the heat of Origin have been blown away in recent weeks with some electrifying performance leading Brisbane on a six-game winning streak which has them securely tucked away in the top four on the NRL ladder.

The other likely Origin debutants for game one in Sydney on June 8 are Cowboy’s teammates Reuben Cotter and agile back-rower Jeremiah Nanai.

Hard-working Brisbane forward Pat Carrigan has kept teammate Thomas Flegler out of the squad in a tight battle.

Meanwhile, Gold Coast captain Tino Faasuamaleaui , who feared he may have blown his Origin chances following some disappointing form for the Gold Coast Titans has been included in the Maroons squad.

He could even start in the front-row ahead of rugged Roosters prop Lindsay Collins who will be vital in filling the gap created by injury to Queensland hardman Christian Welch.

Welch will miss the entire 2022 series after rupturing an Achilles in a win over Wests Tigers earlier this month.

High-leaping, try-scoring machine Nanai has been a real revelation this season with a bag of aerial tries that have elevated him into the Queensland squad.

The 19-year-old Kiwi-born back-rower has helped himself to 11 tries in just 16 NRL games proving a freak at snatching the ball from the air.

His teammate Cotter has also shone this season for the Cowboys.

The 23-year-old Mackay product has come into his own this year, impressing Queensland selectors with his high work rate, toughness, and tackle-busting ability to the point where, like Cobbo, he demanded to be picked.

If there was any lingering doubt about Reuben Cotter’s value to Slater’s squad, he dispelled it on Friday night coming up with a herculean 63 tackles in 64 minutes in a badly beaten Cowboys side.

Queensland has a history of building Origin victories on the high workloads of its forwards over the years.

The Maroons built many great Origin victories in the past on the defensive efforts of players likes of Gary Larson, Trevor Gillmeister, Billy Moore, Paul Vautin and Dallas Johnson to name a few who have been tireless defenders and heroes.

Cotter, who is expected to star at lock, also offers a bit of versatility being able to play a few different positions in the pack.

As expected Queensland have picked a spine as good as anything NSW will be able to conjure up — although the Blues will lay claim to first game and series’ favoritism which they always do.

But with Newcastle custodian Kaylyn Ponga selected at fullback, the general Cameron Munster in the No.6, Daly Cherry Evans scheming at half and jack-rabbit hooker Harry Grant at number 9, the Maroons have an awesome looking fab-four to do battle against whatever spine combination Brad Fittler settles on.

Faasuamaleaui or Collins to start up-front alongside respected Canberra prop Josh Papalii, giving Queensland the muscle and grunt to meet-fire-with-fire in the fierce opening exchanges which Origin is famously built on.

Queensland’s likely squad for Origin 1 in Sydney

Kalyn Ponga, Selwyn Cobbo, Valentine Holmes, Dane Gagai, Xavier Coates, Cameron Munster, Daly Cherry Evans, Josh Papalii, Harry Grant, Tino Faasuamaleaui, Luke Capewell, Felice Kaufusi, Rueben Cotter, Ben Hunt, Lindsay Collins, Pat Carrigan, Jeremiah Nanai, Jai Arrow and Moeaki Fotuaika.

Cowboys halves utility Tom Dearden and Parramatta hooker Reed Mahoney are also expected to join the Queensland camp.

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