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Question marks over Maroons line-up

Brent Tate will start on the wing for Queensland in Game 1 of State of Origin, says Tony Durkin.
Brent Tate will start on the wing for Queensland in Game 1 of State of Origin, says Tony Durkin. GETTY IMAGES

IT SEEMS my experience and my gut feeling last week were both way off the mark. My 'mail' seven days later is that not only will Petero Civoniceva wear the mighty Maroon jersey again this year, he will start in game one.

Admittedly, all the discussion about whether 'he will or whether he won't' has been media generated. And unlike his Blues counterpart, coach Mal Meninga has kept a low profile, giving very little away.

But it's been easy for Big Mal to fly under the radar because he is virtually only looking to fill two vacancies - a wing and a seat on the bench. One of those is filled, the other remains contentious.

When the team is announced at a corporate event at Suncorp Stadium on Monday evening, Brent Tate will be recalled on the wing for his 16th Origin appearance, and his first since 2008. The only other changes to the starting side from game three last year will be Justin Hodges in the centres for Dane Nielsen, and Cooper Cronk for Darren Lockyer.

The make-up of the bench is where the question mark lies. Ben Hannant, David Shillington and Dave Taylor are certainties, with the final spot down to a three-way skirmish between Matt Gillett, Corey Parker and Neville Costigan.

It appears there will be no room for a genuine utility or a specialist half, leaving Daly Cherry-Evans out in the cold - for the time being. Again, the 'mail' is that the selectors will go with Matt Gillett, but my gut feeling - for what it's worth this time - is that Corey Parker will get the nod.

And the reasons for going with Parker are straight forward - he was there last year, his stats in 2012 have again been outstanding and he can be relied on to do the job the coach wants. Conversely, Gillett's form in recent weeks has fallen away and Costigan's hands can sometimes be a liability.

Like many brilliant young Queenslanders before them, Gillett, Cherry-Evans, Justin O'Neill, Josh McGuire and Ben Barba will have to tread water. But their time will come.

 

Leaving a bitter taste

PLAYERS and alcohol have been in the news of late, but thankfully no one has disgraced himself. Well, not really.

Michael Jennings apparently had to be hauled over the coals for imbibing on Anzac Day, and has subsequently been dumped to reserve grade, but that is apparently an attitude issue and not the demon drink.

Again, imbibing to excess is not the reason the entire Canberra Raiders squad is abstaining for a few weeks, and Warriors Ben Matulino and Manu Vatuvei have opted for a season on kava, rather than alcohol. Having tasted kava, I'd prefer the Raiders' option.

But the weirdest alcohol-related story relates to Queensland Origin captain-in-waiting, Cameron Smith, and his decision to promote VB during the upcoming series when the Maroons are sponsored by XXXX. That act is so sacrilegious it's akin to giving the Blues Queensland's game plan. In fact, Smith's decision is so indefensible I will reserve judgement, thinking there has to be some rational reason. But at the moment the words selfish, thoughtless and naïve come to mind. And I'm thinking that if Smith thought this deal was kosher, maybe the Storm players were unaware of those salary cap rorts two seasons ago.

 

Dark days at Knights

AS A coach, Wayne Bennett has absolutely nothing to prove to anyone. He will forever be regarded as one of the best and most successful in the history of the game.

And while the Knights have taken a lot longer to adapt to Bennett's coaching style than most thought, injuries to key players has taken its toll in the opening ten weeks of the season.

But the time has come for Bennett to slip a rocket in to two of his biggest buys, Darius Boyd and Kade Snowden. Neither has made any impact as the Knights have struggled to four wins from 10 starts. Snowden looks overweight and Boyd disinterested.

Between them they are probably copping 25% of the salary cap, so fans understandably want some results.

Topics:  maroons nrl state of origin