Billy Slater has named his Queensland side for the crucial Game II clash in Perth and there are some big winners.
Rabbitohs veteran Jai Arrow and Cowboys excitement machine Murray Taulagi have been drafted in to fill the void left by Reuben Cotter and Xavier Coates.
Meanwhile, Broncos veteran Corey Oates has earned a recall, while rising star Beau Fermor has won a place in the Maroons squad ahead of two teammates hopeful of a return to the state vs state arena.
Queensland currently sit in the box-seat to take home the 2022 Origin series and Billy Slater has been able to give his team stability, while Brad Fittler has made sweeping changes.
Here are the winners and losers out of Slater’s Maroons team announcement!
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Only 12 months ago Jai Arrow would have thought his Origin career was over.
The Rabbitohs veteran was handed a suspension for Game III of the 2021 series as well as a $35,000 fine for breaching Covid-19 protocols by bringing an “unregistered guest” into Maroons camp.
After a sit-down dinner with Slater and Queensland powerbrokers, Arrow expressed his remorse for his actions and was included in the Maroons extended squad for the series opener.
Now he will return to the Origin arena following an injury to Cowboys cult-hero Reuben Cotter, starting off the bench.
Arrow has been one of the Rabbitohs best in 2022 and Jason Demetriou has used his reliable forward at lock and on an edge.
The 26-year-old now gets the chance to add to his nine Queensland appearances, having played in the 2018, 2019 and 2021 series losses, while winning one in 2020.
Taulagi has been in scintillating form in 2022 and was rewarded with a call-up to the squad for the series opener.
Young gun Selwyn Cobbo won the wing spot ahead of him for Game I, but now with Xavier Coates out injured, Taulagi gets his opportunity to make his debut.
The 23-year-old would have been in a selection race with Cowboys teammate Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, but he was ruled out due to a head knock.
Taulagi is yet to play 50 NRL games but has been a big factor in the Cowboys resurgence in 2022, scoring nine tries and sitting equal 14th on the try scoring leaderboard.
He also sits 11th for total run metres and 14th for total offloads and Slater will be hoping his aerial and dynamic finishing ability will shine for the Maroons.
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Fermor is a surprise inclusion into Slater’s squad for Game II.
While he is an outside chance to take the field, his selection is a big vote of confidence for the young gun in years to come.
In a strong forward pack which boasts million-dollar man David Fifita, Moeaki Fotuaika and Maroons teammate Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Fermor has shone with a strong running game.
The 23-year-old also provides cover for the centre position, having been utilised in the outside backs by Justin Holbrook in the past.
It is hard to name an injured player as one of the big losers out of the Origin team selections.
But, following an unfortunate hamstring injury in the Cowboys warm-up prior to their Round 15 clash, Cotter has been robbed of the chance to stamp his authority on the 2022 series.
The 23-year-old put in a ridiculous 80 minute performance at lock to complete one of the finest Origin debuts in recent memory.
Cotter will be sorely missed in the Maroons side, with Tino Fa’asuamaleaui named at lock in his position.
The Cowboys cult-figure is also a strong chance to miss Game III after scans confirmed his Grade 2 hamstring blow and coach Todd Payten revealed he was “devastated” for his reliable workhorse.
Fotuaika would have been in the conversation for a re-call to the squad, but this time it wasn’t to be.
After missing out on the squad for the series opener, the Titans young gun would have been desperate to be included for Game II after Reuben Cotter’s injury threw a spanner in the works.
Teammate Beau Fermor won the spot over him which could be a symptom of a steady decrease in playing time over the last three seasons.
In 2020, the 22-year-old averaged 58 minutes on the park, dropping to 51 in 2021 before slightly falling to 50 in 2022.
His attacking output has also seen a steady decline, highlighted in his average metres per game dropping from 135 in 2021 to 110 in 2022.
The Titans million-dollar man would have been hoping Slater took a leaf out of ‘Freddy’s’ book by picking players on return from injury.
Fittler named Victor Radley in his extended squad without having played a club game following a serious ankle injury in Round 10.
Likewise, David Fifita has been battling with a knee injury this season, but Titans coach Justin Holbrook revealed the barnstorming backrower would be ready for their next game.
The Titans next game is in two weeks time, but was handed a two to three week return window after aggravating his MCL sprain after Round 12.
Fifita was left out of the squad for the series opener and Fermor’s inclusion has seen the damaging ball-runner fall further down to Origin pecking order under Billy Slater.
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