2019 State of Origin Series
By W D Nicolson - May 6, 2019
First up, apologies for the lack of Rugby League content on www.wdnicolson.com so far this season, outside of a few Podcasts this site unfortunately just hasn't been a priority. So to all those loyal people who tuned in for the last decade plus for The Postman's Tips (and for The Postman's original Late Mail - yes we understood the value of the content long ago) - I'm sorry that they didn't continue to be posted in 2019. The season just snuck up on us and I wasn't able to do tipping coverage justice so it was left behind... mind you I'm still tipping and so far this year am 43 from 64 at 67.2% so that isn't terrible.
Anyhoo, you are here for the QLD Origin Eligible Players List and some actual Rugby League content so let's get to it.
Surprisingly the QRL have made this list an open book (well until they need someone from Samoa or Tonga or Fiji etc) and listed all their eligible players here - what I'll break down for you today below is who is actually available for the key spots in the QLD three-quarter line.
The reason this group is interesting is that with Valentine Holmes going to the USA and first Billy Slater, and now Greg Inglis retiring - QLD have a serious shortage of quality depth options in the outside backs with those three absent.
Corey Oates came in for Game 3 last year (after being a star at the Origin level in 2016, then getting punted when QLD got smashed in Game 1 2017) and he will definitely fill one spot.
Will Chambers and Dane Gagai are also incumbents from Game 3 and will get the call for Game 1 this year but with GI retired and Holmes gone, there is still one spot in the three-quarter line that is wide open.
But whether the open spot is at centre or wing comes down to what QLD Coach Kevin Walters wants to do with Gagai.
Now Gagai has been playing centre for Souths most of the year with GI missing but he's been great for QLD on their wing, so if you decide he's better value for QLD on the wing then who does QLD pick at centre?
If you take away Chambers , Gagai, Oates and assume Kalyn Ponga is at fullback to replace Slater this is the list provided by the QRL who are eligible for the centres:
Matt Gillett - Brisbane (Playing 2nd Row)
David Fifita - Brisbane (Playing 2nd Row)
Gehamat Shibasaki - Brisbane (In QLD Cup)
Kurt Capewell - Cronulla (Playing 2nd Row)
Brenko Lee - Gold Coast (In QLD Cup)
Dale Copley - Gold Coast (Injured)
Philip Sami - Gold Coast (Injured)
Brendan Elliot - Manly
Marion Seve - Melbourne
Tautau Moga - Newcastle (Injured)
Edrick Lee - Newcastle
Kurt Mann - Newcastle
Hymel Hunt - Newcastle
Michael Morgan - North Queensland
Gavin Cooper - North Queensland (Playing 2nd Row)
Coen Hess - North Queensland (Playing 2nd Row)
Javid Bowen - North Queensland (In QLD Cup)
Justin O'Neill - North Queensland
Ben Hampton - North Queensland
Enari Tuala - North Queensland
Tom Opacic - North Queensland
Moses Mbye - Wests Tigers (Playing Fullback)
And if you just look at pure wingers if you moved Gagai to centre the list has the following players added to it:
Ronaldo Mulitalo - Cronulla (In NSW Cup)
Kyle Feldt - North Queensland (Injured)
Gideon Gela-Mosby - North Queensland (In QLD Cup)
Nene Macdonald - North Queensland (Injured)
Corey Allan - South Sydney
Jonus Pearson - St George Illawarra (In NSW Cup)
Lachlan Maranta - St George Illawarra (In NSW Cup)
Corey Thompson - Wests Tigers
It's not exactly an embarrassment of riches like we are used to looking for outside backs in Queensland.
Macdonald and Feldt if fit probably would have been fighting it out for the open spot with Gagai moving into the centres, but Macdonald is done for the year with a serious leg injury and Feldt hasn't played a game yet due to a groin problem.
So the way I see it QLD have two directions they can go.
Play Gagai at centre and go with Edrick Lee, Justin O'Neill or (if he's fit very shortly) Kyle Feldt on the wing.
Leave Gagai on the wing and play it 'safe' in the centres by picking an extra second rower to mark up on either Latrell Mitchell or James Roberts (who may get dropped this week by the Broncos... but expect Brad Fittler will pick him for NSW if he's fit and back in the top grade in a few weeks) in Matt Gillett or Gavin Cooper, or they could go really bold and pick a talent like David Fifita or even move Coen Hess wider.
There is another option if Daly Cherry-Evans is fit for Game 1 and that is to play Michael Morgan in the centres but I expect him to be at #7 with Ben Hunt on the bench (or at #9 if they go in another direction to Andrew McCullough*).
So QLD are going to go from leaving Corey Oates out of their Origin team to having to pick either Edrick Lee or Justin O'Neill on the wing... or one of Gillett/Cooper in the centres.
Talk about a change in fortune at the selection table!
But right now - Edrick Lee and Justin O'Neill are on the verge of a QLD debut and QLD recall - something realistically neither would have believed was a chance 12 months ago.
And good luck to them if they get picked; O'Neill in particular has made the most of his recall to first grade this season and was an Australian starting centre as recently as 2016 when he also played all three games for QLD. As for Lee, he was 18th man way back in 2015 when he was still at the Raiders and has since gone onto a stint with the Sharks and only landed at Newcastle this year.
So what combo would you go with in Game 1 QLD fans?
Ponga, Oates, Chambers, Gagai, Lee/O'Neill
Ponga, Oates, Chambers, Gillett/Cooper, Gagai
Or have we missed an option entirely?
*PS. News just in at lunchtime today (Monday May 6) has Andrew McCullough going down at Brisbane training with a knee injury, so Ben Hunt looks odds on to get the hooking role for QLD should McCullough be out for any length of time. So that means Morgan is firming for the #7 and wouldn't be picked in the centres.
Remember you can see the full list of eligible QLDers on the QRL website here.
Let us know in the comments below or via @NRLTweet on Twitter