Queensland coach Billy Slater confirms selection bombshells


Queensland coach Billy Slater has made sweeping changes to his team for the State of Origin series opener.

The Maroons legend on Monday morning confirmed the contentious decision to shun Titans star David Fifita.

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The Maroons have been hit with injuries to superstar players and Slater has been forced to roll the dice in some of the most critical positions on the field.

Dragons star Jaydn Su’A will take over from Fifita in the back-row, with Felise Kaufusi and Brendan Piakura in the extended squad.

Jeremiah Nanai will start on the other edge in the No. 12 jumper.

With Cameron Munster the biggest out, the Maroons have made six changes to the team that lost Game 3 of the 2023 series.

Official Queensland team for Game 1

1 Reece Walsh

2 Xavier Coates

3 Valentine Holmes

4 Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow

5 Murray Taulagi

6 Tom Dearden

7 Daly Cherry-Evans (c)

8 Reuben Cotter

9 Ben Hunt

10 Lindsay Collins

11 Jaydn Su’A

12 Jeremiah Nanai

13 Pat Carrigan

Bench:

14 Harry Grant

15 Moeaki Fotuaika

16 J’Maine Hopgood

17 Selwyn Cobbo

Reserves: 18. Felise Kaufusi, 19. Brendan Piakura, 20. Ezra Mam

Fifita was one of the Titans’ best players as Gold Coast secured a stunning upset win over the Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday and also played all three games during Queensland’s victorious 2023 series.

However, it appears his papers were marked long ago.

Queensland has selected Harry Grant, debutant J’Maine Hopgood, Mo Fotuaika and Selwyn Cobbo on the bench.

The axing comes after NSW Blues coach Michael Maguire delivered a new-look squad with six debutants named.

Former Blues coach Brad Fittler spoke about the Blues squad shortly after it was announced with the NRL great believing Maguire has done a good job with his decisions.

“He hasn’t been given that jumper, he has absolutely gone out and taken it himself,” Fittler said on Channel 9.

“So congratulations to Dylan Edwards. There are some surprises. (Joseph) Sua’ali’i is a surprise to me.

“Spencer Leniu, I think he will do a fantastic job and Origin will suit him, but that’s a surprise.

“(Haumole) Olakau’atu deserves his spot. (Cam) McInnes, once again, he seems like an Origin type of player. But starting in front of Isaah Yeo, there are a lot of new players there.

“And with a new coach, it’s the time to do it. It’s a good team, they’ve all earned their positions, so well done and good luck to the boys.”

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