Is Mango ripe for the picking?
QUEENSLAND Origin coach Mal Meninga and his selectors are in such a state of flux over who should wear the prized No.1 jersey in Wednesday week's decider that the player who puts up his 'pick me' hand this weekend could well get the nod.
And tonight in Townsville 84kg veteran Matt Bowen is very much in the Maroons spotlight as he continues his stellar 2012 season against the struggling Canberra Raiders.
Bowen made the last of his 10 Origin appearances back in 2007 and at 30 would relish nothing more than another crack at the big arena.
"I'd love to put that Maroon jersey on again and I'd like to think I'm a chance," said the fullback nicknamed Mango. "The selectors have a few options, but if I get selected I'll be a very happy man. I want to play for Queensland - I really want to play again."
Bowen is spot on when he says the Maroons have options, not the least being the availability of Billy Slater. Injured in Origin II and thought to be sidelined for up to six weeks with knee ligament damage, Slater is believed to be racing the clock to get himself right for the Suncorp Stadium decider.
If Slater indicates to the selectors he thinks he will be fit to play, he will be selected and given until match eve to prove his fitness.
If not Bowen is a massive chance, particularly if he again stars tonight.
When asked if Bowen needed to 'put up his hand' against the Raiders, an indignant Meninga said "I thought he did that against the Broncos last week".
While Bowen's form will be the major barometer concerning his selection, the fact he has such an uncanny understanding with five-eighth Johnathan Thurston will also be a determining factor.
"Matty's combination with JT is an attractive proposition," Meninga said.
While the Cowboys are red-hot favourites to beat the disappointing Raiders tonight, they have been dealt a blow with the loss of prop Matt Scott.
His mother Dianne passed away on Thursday night after a long battle with throat cancer.
Glenn Hall will move from the second row to prop, Scott Bolton comes in to the starting side and Cory Paterson is the new bench player.
The loss of Scott will buoy the Raiders who have a strong, but under-performing forward pack. Props David Shillington and Tom Learoyd-Lahrs are among the best in the game on their day and tackling-machine lock Shaun Fensom remains a smokey for the injured Glenn Stewart in the Blues Origin III line-up.
In tonight's 7.30 game the Panthers are looking to enter the winner's circle against last-placed Parramatta, after losing three of their last four.