Michael Morgan's injury will see him miss Origin Game III in Sydney next month and there is a bench spot up for grabs. At the start of the series the worry for QLD was depth, as they decided to ban up to 8 players for breaking curfew last year. With Morgan gone, if Cronk or Thurston or both suffer injury or are suspended before game 3 it will be a test for Walters. Lucky for him the series is wrapped up.
So who are the contenders?. Well for QLD they have preferred ball playing utilities in recent years, the benefit of having Morgan is that not only does he possess the passing game, his running game and defence are second to none. Big shoes to fill. I will say it again, in two years if fit, I think Morgan is primed to be the next QLD captain.
The contenders for Morgan's spot:
Daly Cherry- Evans
Positives - Back from injury and had a really solid game against the Cowboys. He went with Thurston for the full 80 minutes and even sprinted clear of Justin O'neill ( a noted speedster) to score a try. Has played Origin before and only missed out last year and this year through injury. Morgan got his spot and hasn't let it go.
Negatives - Has no match fitness of late. He would be entering Origin with only a couple of games under his belt and the worry for DCE is that he is injury prone, one heavy knock could end his night and leave QLD short. Plays a different role to Morgan and can't adapt to defending in the middle like Morgan can.
Positives - Has found his career best form for the sharks and is playing out of his skin. Now that his speed has returned he has regained his title as one of the NRLs most exciting attacking weapons as he can score from anywhere. Plays fullback week to week so can provide replacement at fullback and on the wing also. Has been in QLD development squads in the past and would slot straight into QLDs routine.
Negatives - Can't provide support for tired forwards up the middle and can't take hit ups. He isn't a defensive option at around the 60 minute mark when smaller players are trying to cut up the middle. His detractors would say that he is too small for State of Origin, that said before you say he is too small can anyone say 'Alan Langer?'.
Positives - At the end of one of the most solid and longstanding NRL careers. If Nathan Friend was born south of the border OR if a little player named Cameron Smith didn't exist, Friend would have played Origin a decade a go. Friend could plug up the middle of the field and that would mean Smith wouldn't have to do so much defensive work and could almost play like another first receiver while Friend was on the field. Considering this is stop gap for a utility until Morgan returns next year, QLD rugby league could give one of the most beloved players a well deserved rep. jumper.
Negatives - Origin these days is all about building for the future and bringing in development players and succession planning. So unfortunately for Friend I think it will be a case of too late for the retiring Titan.
Positives - Provides a bigger body on the bench and will add some strength out wide. When Maloney ran with the ball in game 2 he ran wider of the ruck and almost cut QLD up a few times, if not for the fact NSW support play was not up to par Maloney could have had a more devastating game. Cooper will plug that up and also provide some glue for when Cordner and Frizell hit the line. Plays wide enough to be a centre so doesn't need to be restricted to the middle of the field.
Negatives - Put simply I think QLD will look for a more like for like replacement for Morgan. They wont want to be coming up with new game plans to try and slot a player in.
Ben Hunt - Suspended from rep football anyway so wont play. Even if he wasn't suspended I don't think he is an Origin player (not yet anyway). He gets caught out in defense a lot. And Origin is built on defense. He makes a lot of errors in attack, which means he is backing himself which is a positive and when his trick plays come off he looks simply genius. But I think Hunt is still a couple of years away from Origin.
Anthony Milford - Another one of the 'infamous 8' who wont play. If allowed to play I think Milford would have been right up there. Will play Origin it's just a matter of time.
For me the money is on Ben Barba. I think QLD will send him on just before half time and then at about the 60 minute mark and just get him to look for holes around the middle. Then again if Nate Myles is back maybe Walters goes for a bigger than normal bench and leaves Lillyman in?.
Who gets your vote?