Coach Mal Meninga has named an almost unchanged Queensland squad for the opening game of the 2014 State Of Origin Series, with Roosters forward Aidan Guerra the only debutant in the Maroons squad.
Meninga has opted to stay loyal to the Queensland side that secured an eighth straight State Of Origin series victory over New South Wales last year and Sam Thaiday will be the only player missing from two-point win in the decider at ANZ Stadium last year.
Selectors were hoping that Thaiday would be fit to contest the State Of Origin opener next Wednesday, after missing the past three weeks of football due to a calf injury, but the forward ruled himself out of calculations and will not play for the Broncos this weekend.
Utility forward Matt Gillett has been moved to the starting side in the absence of Thaiday, while Guerra moves onto the bench and Meninga is confident that the premiership winner will have no problems handling the big game environment that is State Of Origin.
“Playing big time games is certainly helpful and so is being a part of the Sydney Roosters squad at the moment as a starting player, which is no mean feat,” Meninga said at the official squad announcement.
“He deserves to be here and I know he is excited about being here and he will take advantage of his opportunity.
“He (Thaiday) made a tough but honest decision about his availability and full marks to him.
“When he is fit and raring to go he will come back into calculations.”
Guerra said that he is privileged to get the opportunity to join such a strong group of players and the 26-year-old said that he is inspired to attempt to replicate the form of Johnathan Thurston, Greg Inglis, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater who have all led the Maroons to State Of Origin victories for a number of years.
“Everyone who plays the game wants to be on this stage and I’m glad I got the chance to do it,” Guerra said.
“There’s a team there of some pretty capable players who have done it in the years before and I’m going to do my best to step up to their level.”
Queensland are currently $1.45 favourites to win the opening game at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday May 28 and are available at a quote of $1.50 to score their ninth straight State Of Origin Series win.
2014 Queensland Origin 1 Team
1. Billy Slater
2. Darius Boyd
3. Greg Inglis
4. Justin Hodges
5. Brent Tate
6. Johnathan Thurston
7. Cooper Cronk
8. Matt Scott
9. Cameron Smith
10. Nate Myles
18. Chris McQueen
12. Matt Gillett
13. Corey Parker
14. Daly Cherry-Evans
15. Ben Te’o
16. Aidan Guerra
17. Josh Papalii