Wesser a chance at QLD fullback spot

Penrith Panthers fullback Rhys Wesser will be out to claim his first State of Origin jumper this year with confirmation that Brisbane's Darren Lockyer is no longer a threat.

A storm of controversy erupted over the selection of the Queensland team last year in which Wesser missed out on what most thought was a well deserved spot in the squad.

While Lockyer is one of the game's best fullbacks, critics have been calling upon coach Wayne Bennett to move him to five-eighth, where they believe he will be a better attacking weapon.

The pleas have finally been answered, with Lockyer to play in the number six jumper during Sunday's clash with the New Zealand Warriors at Suncorp Stadium.

On top of that, Queensland selectors say Lockyer will be considered at five-eighth for this year's Origin series, not at fullback.

"We'd like to think Darren will play five-eighth now at club and state level and for Australia," Gene Miles said.

"It's been a real problem position over the past three or four years, since Kevvie (Walters) left. But we'd like to think Darren is there for the long haul."

Last year, Clinton Schifcofske earned himself a spot in the squad ahead of Wesser when a spot opened up, but with a premiership behind him and plenty of records in his pocket, the Panthers flyer is now in with a huge chance.

Meanwhile, Panthers captain Craig Gower says the feeling around Penrith is positive heading into Friday night's season opener against Newcastle.

"It means a lot to us to know that the community is behind us," Gower said at an official function this week.

"Last week we had a huge fan night ? more than two thousand fans turned up. That was probably the biggest supporters? gathering we?ve had in my time at Penrith and it was a boost to us just as the season is about to start.

"Knowing that Penrith was behind us certainly helped us last year ? and it was great to be able to return something to the community ? a Premiership. We?ll be out there again this year trying to do you proud."

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