Kevin Walters has been forced to make some tough decisions.
Kevin Walters has been forced to make some tough decisions.

Maroons a mess after late team shake-up

Queensland is set to go with a dramatic backline re-shuffle which could see up to four players bumped to a different position as Maroons coach Kevin Walters considers the biggest selection headache of his coaching career.

Walters and his fellow Queensland selectors Darren Lockyer, Billy Slater and Gene Miles will announce the Maroons' side for Game 3 at ANZ Stadium at 9am (AEST) on Monday morning.

Walters has the difficult job of trying to replace star fullback Kalyn Ponga, who was on Sunday ruled out of Game 3 next Wednesday night after the Knights announced he has a two-week calf injury.

The dilemma has forced Walters into the biggest gamble of his career.

According to reports, Dragons playmaker Corey Norman is widely tipped to be the big inclusion when the team is announced - allowing Michael Morgan to move back to fullback and Moses Mbye to start in the centres (replacing Morgan).

Norman is expected to be selected as a bench utility.

 

 

 

However, a contrasting reports claims the Maroons even at the last minute were also considering the very different option of selecting Kyle Feldt to make his debut.

Fox Sports' James Hooper reports Queensland selectors were also looking at Feldt to play on the wing in a move that would allow Dane Gagai to move to the centres and Morgan to move to fullback.

Feldt is also a handy goalkicker with the Maroons looking for a sharpshooter to replace Ponga.

Melbourne Storm forward Christian Welch will be the other debutant confirmed at 9am, according to reports after Walters wielded the axe on the underperforming Maroons' forwards from Game 2.

Dylan Napa and Jarrod Wallace will both be dumped in favour of Welch and returning Broncos prop Joe Ofahengaue.

Welch insists he won't be feeling any nerves if called upon to make his State of Origin debut.

Michael Morgan and Michael Morgan will both have the No. 1 on their backs.
Michael Morgan and Michael Morgan will both have the No. 1 on their backs.

The Melbourne front-rower has no qualms with pulling on the Maroons jersey for the first time in such a high-pressure environment.

The 24-year-old is no stranger to big games, having played in two grand finals for the Storm in 2016 and 2018.

"As much as I'd like to tell you a front-rower's job is complicated, it's quite simple. It's work hard, run hard, tackle hard," Welch said.

"And I think for a big game like that, you just back your simple things and try and do them really well - kick pressure and stuff like that.

"It's pretty hard to get pretty nervous with that. If I do get picked, I've got full confidence in hopefully playing well."

Welch was a part of Queensland's extended squad for game two and, despite the loss, soaked up the entire experience.

He took a particular liking to veteran second-rower Matt Gillett.

 

The stakes couldn’t be higher for Corey Norman’s debut.
The stakes couldn’t be higher for Corey Norman’s debut.

"Coming through the ranks in under-20s and early years in first grade, I looked at him as one of the premier back-rowers," Welch said.

"He's tough as nails. I loved meeting Matt and building a bit of a relationship with him, and a few of the others boys.

"Then obviously you've got former players, you've got Alfie Langer, Johnathan Thurston, Petero Civoniceva, (Justin) Hodges.

"These are guys that growing up as a kid you idolise on a Wednesday (Origin) night after coming home from school.

"To be involved with them for a week, it was really beneficial for me to be a part of it and soak it all up."

Meanwhile, Newcastle made it clear on Sunday that Ponga will not be available for the decider.

"The scans showed he (Ponga) has suffered a strain....He is expected to miss the next two weeks," said the Knights in a statement.

Brisbane's Anthony Milford, who returned to fullback in Saturday's loss to Newcastle, is another who can be brought in from outside the squad, but is expected to be overlooked as the Broncos continue to struggle in 2019.

LIKELY QUEENSLAND TEAM:

1. Michael Morgan, 2. Corey Oates, 3. Moses Mbye, 4. Will Chambers, 5. Dane Gagai, 6. Cameron Munster, 7. Daly Cherry-Evans (c), 8. Joe Ofahengaue, 9. Ben Hunt, 10. Josh Papalii, 11. Felise Kaufusi, 12. Matt Gillett, 13. Josh McGuire. Bench: 14. Corey Norman, 15. Christian Welch, 16. David Fifita, 17. Tim Glasby.

- with AAP

News Corp Australia

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