SUNDAY SPECIALS | Two tight tussles for NRL Sunday - Melbourne Storm and Canberra Raiders flexing th...
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With Queensland suffering three injuries in tonight?s opening Origin match, Wayne Bennett and his selectors must now look at who is available for the second match at Telstra Stadium in a fortnight.
With Hodges and Bowman certain to be long-term absentees, the Maroons must find two suitable replacements. Two centres immediately come to mind in Chris Walker and Josh Hannay. Walker is currently out injured with a hamstring injury while Hannay is in arguably the best form of his career and is the NRL?s leading goal kicker to boot.
Chris Flannery also suffered a shoulder injury and depending on the outcome, could be replaced by Bulldogs lock Travis Norton who would fill the utility void for the Maroons quite comfortably. Norton has played at the highest level before and will be moving north of the border at the end of the season to take up a three-year contract with the North Queensland Cowboys.
Queensland also have Rhys Wesser and Clinton Schifcofske waiting in the wings for the call up so while things may look a little bleak after the first bruising encounter, Queensland are by no means a spent force in this series and their depth in the outside backs should see them come back just as strong in game two.
The other big loser from tonight?s match is Roosters coach Ricky Stuart, who will be shattered at losing Hodges for what looks to be the remainder of the season while the extent of Chris Flannery?s shoulder injury is yet to be determined. Hodges loss alone leaves a gaping hole in the Roosters backline and his presence will be sorely missed as the Roosters attempt to win back-to-back titles.
New South Wales in comparison look to be injury free and Gould will be reluctant to change a winning formula for the Blues only home match in the 2003 series. Having said that, two weeks is a long time in football and as we saw tonight, injuries can strike at any time and throw the best-laid plans into turmoil in the blink of an eye.