21 hours ago
The hunt becomes the hunted...
The Billy will be boiling but it seems it will be a case of see you Slater, with Queensland selectors poised to play Karmichael Hunt at fullback for this year's State of Origin series opener in Melbourne on June 3.
The general consensus is the brilliant Bronco has the Storm star covered in all aspects of the game other than out-and-out speed and whilst Hunt is by no means pedestrian, Slater is clearly the quicker of the two.
Hunt's rich vein of form is another reason why he is well ahead on points with Slater playing well below par in a struggling Storm outfit. The latter may very well be the Test incumbent but the image of him throwing that absolute "clanger" in last year's World Cup final will do him no favours when the Queensland selectors sit down to pick the 17 that will be chasing a a piece of history.
No state has won four series in a row and carrying the weight of expectation will ensure the Maroons hierarchy will leave no stone unturned in their quest to repel what will be an almighty challenge from a New South Wales team given the responsibility of 'stopping the rot".
Apart from restoring pride in the Blue jumper and preventing another excruciating 12 months of bragging rights, can you imagine the pressure if New South Wales enters next year's series facing five series losses in succession? Blocker will do his block! Benny will be out the backdoor never to return! Topsy-turvy Mortimer will be in a spin! Sterlo will pull his hair out - metaphorically of course! And Mr Perpetual Motion, well Pricey might finally run out of puff!
If Slater does miss the fullback position for Queensland, he is more likely to find himself on the interchange bench than shunted out to the wing spot. He has showed that he can fill virtually every position in the backline and his club coach Craig Bellamy - the New South Wales coach - has inadvertently helped the enemy by giving Slater valuable experience at dummy-half.
So with Special K at fullback, the wing spots should go to Israel Folau and Darius Boyd. The centres pretty much pick themselves, you have the world's best Justin Hodges joined by the brilliant Greg Inglis.
The halves is a case of three into two doesn't go. Personally, I'd go with the world's best player in Jonathan Thurston with Scotty Prince his partner. The "hell" that this pair would rain-down on the Blues defence would be lethal and probably insurmountable. Obviously Darren Lockyer would be equally as devastating linking with either two.
Bottom line, irrespective of what halves' pairing Queensland select from this illustrious trio, the assignment facing New South Wales will be akin to climbing Everest wearing nothing but a thong - you'd of thought they'd supply a second flip-flop?
The lock forward position will go to David Stagg if he sustains the form he's displayed thus far for the Bulldogs. Coach Kevin Moore has developed the former one-dimensional tackling machine into a very handy ball-player. Stagg is well in front of incumbent Dallas Johnson.
Sam Thaiday, Nate Myles, Corey Parker, Dave Taylor, Jacob Lillyman and Neville Costigan are all in the mix for the second row. Up front, it will be the tried and tested trio of Steve Price, Cam Smith and Petero Civoniceva. Back-up props should be the NRL's form frontrower in Ben Hannant along with the likes of Nick Kenny, Dave Shillington and perhaps Carl Webb - albeit the game seems to have gone past players of his ilk who lack endurance.
So, the Queensland side that I would send out for Game One (subject to injury) would be: 1) Hunt 2) Folau 3) Hodges 4) Inglis 5) Boyd 6) Thurston 7) Prince 8) Price 9) Smith 10) Civoniceva 11) Thaiday 12) Myles 13) Stagg. Interchange:- 14) Slater 15) Taylor 16) Hannant 17) Parker.
If that team is selected for the clash at Etihad Stadium on June 3, the OMGs (Oh My Goshes) that will resonate the lenghth and breadth of New South Wales will be deafening.