27 May 2024

State of Origin: David Fifita a shock omission from Queensland squad

1:52 pm on 27 May 2024
David Fifita playing for Tonga at the 2021 Rugby League World Cup

David Fifita playing for Tonga at the 2021 Rugby League World Cup Photo: Allan McKenzie / www.photosport.nz

The Queensland Maroons have announced their team for Game I of State of Origin, with Titans prop David Fifita a shock omission.

Fifita played all three games in last year's thrilling 2-1 series victory but has been left out despite a barnstorming start to the year with the Titans.

The 24-year-old is averaging 151 running metres a game over his nine matches this season, more than any other season in his career, and was rewarded with the Scott Prince Medal as man of the match in Gold Coast's shock 36-34 victory against Brisbane on Sunday.

"David created a really high standard for his footy last year, he just hasn't quite got to that standard this year," coach Billy Slater said.

"I spoke to Dave last night, he's taken the disappointing news like a true Queenslander, wishes the best of the footy team and reiterated that in a text message after.

"I've got no doubt that Dave will get back to the footy that he played last year and I'm sure that he'll play in a Maroons jersey in the future again."

Eels forward J'maine Hopgood is the sole debutant in the 17-player line-up.

"You know when a player goes silent on the other end of the call how much it means to them," Slater said.

"He earned his way into the camp last year for Game III and that wasn't just for experience.

"[I'm] looking forward to seeing him go out there and represent his state."

Queensland coach Billy Slater.

Queensland coach Billy Slater. Photo: AAP / www.photosport.nz

Dragons forward Jaydn Su'a returns to the side for the first time since Game I of the 2021 series, with Dolphins forward Felise Kaufusi named as 18th man.

Tom Dearden has been named as Cameron Munster's replacement at five-eighth, with the Broncos' Ezra Mam also named in the 20-player squad.

"The one thing that Queensland did have when Cameron Munster went down was quality players who could fill in that position," Slater said.

"When you're a part of that squad it means you're playing to the standard that this footy team has created.

"There was probably not a wrong decision there, but I just feel that Tommy Dearden really earned this opportunity."

David Fifita of the Titans (centre) reacts after scoring a try during the Round 25 NRL match between the Gold Coast Titans and New Zealand Warriors at CBus Stadium on the Gold Coast, Sunday, September 5, 2021.

Photo: AAP Image/Dave Hunt/Photosport Ltd 2021

Brisbane centre Selwyn Cobbo has been named as a utility on the bench due to his ability to cover all the outside back positions.

"Four of the last six Origin games we've had to replace an outside back," Slater said.

"Certainly a bit of cover but at the same time, Selwyn can play various positions, I might even create one for him, who knows.

"We'll build that plan as the week goes on, but he's a wonderful player."

Daly Cherry-Evans is the halfback and captain, having led Queensland to three series victories in 2020, 2022, and 2023.

The 20-player squad also includes Broncos players Brendan Piakura and Ezra Mam for the first time.

While an injury crisis forced new Blues coach Michael Maguire into making 11 changes from Game III last year, including six debutants, the Maroons can count on stability for the first contest in Sydney on 5 June.

Apart from Hopgood, Queensland - who only blooded two debutants in the 2023 series - will take 16 other players with Origin experience to the series opener.

"I wouldn't say comfortable, that's probably not the word that I feel right now," Slater said after naming his squad.

"But I'm certainly excited about getting to work.

"We've got ten days of preparation … to get our game on."

Queensland squad:

1. Reece Walsh - Brisbane Broncos

2. Xavier Coates - Melbourne Storm

3. Valentine Holmes - North Qld Cowboys

4. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow - The Dolphins

5. Murray Taulagi - North Qld Cowboys

6. Tom Dearden - North Qld Cowboys

7. Daly Cherry-Evans (c) - Manly Sea Eagles

8. Reuben Cotter - North Qld Cowboys

9. Ben Hunt - St George Illawarra Dragons

10. Lindsay Collins - Sydney Roosters

11. Jaydn Su'a - St George Illawarra Dragons

12. Jeremiah Nanai - North Qld Cowboys

13. Patrick Carrigan - Brisbane Broncos

14. Harry Grant - Melbourne Storm

15. Moeaki Fotuaika - Gold Coast Titans

16. J'maine Hopgood - Parramatta Eels

17. Selwyn Cobbo - Brisbane Broncos

18. Felise Kaufusi - The Dolphins

19. Brendan Piakura - Brisbane Broncos

20. Ezra Mam - Brisbane Broncos


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