Daley looking to exploit selection loophole

Josh Papalii was a surprise choice to replace

Josh Papalii was a surprise choice to replace

Ennis loophole reeks of dirty pool

Vice-captain Robbie Farah was, as expected, named in an unchanged NSW line-up for next week’s State of Origin decider at Suncorp Stadium.

The long-serving hooker is reportedly only a slim chance of taking the field due to a painful hand fracture – and it seems the Blues are prepared to invoke a dodgy loophole to draft in Michael Ennis if Farah is ruled out.

Ennis is facing a one-match ban on a grade-one high-tackle charge thanks to carryover points from a contrary conduct charge incurred earlier this season.

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But as he hasn’t been named by the Blues and will serve his suspension in Cronulla’s match this weekend, Ennis can join the Origin squad at the completion of the NRL round if Farah withdraws.

Will Hopoate retains his place. Photo: Getty

Will Hopoate retains his place. Photo: Getty

It is virtually identical to the Lote Tuqiri controversy during the 2002 series – which the Blues have not forgiven nor forgotten – when Queensland listed one wing spot as ‘TBA’ to allow Tuqiri to serve a suspension at club level before taking his place for the Maroons.

Ennis’ inclusion would be equally farcical; ironically, if the Sharks were one of the eight clubs with a bye in Round 17, the loophole would be closed.

For the sake of rugby league’s battered credibility, the Blues should pick Josh Reynolds, Mitch Rein or Ryan Hinchcliffe (many would argue they are better alternatives than the 31-year-old Ennis anyway), but the lure of Origin glory will be too great.

Daley resists the urge to ditch ‘Hoppa’

The big whisper last week was Laurie Daley was set to jettison underperforming winger Will Hopoate in favour of the explosive but erratic and underdone Blake Ferguson.

‘Hoppa’ survived the axe, however, and for once Daley’s ultra-conservative selection approach will benefit NSW.

Ferguson, who has played just eight NRL games since an infamous off-field incident saw him sacked from the Blues’ squad two years ago, would have been relentlessly targeted by Queensland.

Alex Johnston, James Roberts, Dylan Walker and Josh Mansour had more rational claims to an Origin call-up than Ferguson.

But the electric form of Michael Jennings, the Morris twins and Josh Dugan means that the safety-first option of Hopoate on the right flank was probably the right rein to pull.

Daly Cherry-Evans had  night to forget in Origin II. Photo: Getty

Daly Cherry-Evans had night to forget in Origin II. Photo: Getty

DCE pays the price for Origin II failure

It takes plenty of bottle to drop a player probably regarded as among the top five in the game – particularly one you’ve been grooming for several seasons – but Mal Meninga and his selection panel’s hand was forced by Daly Cherry-Evans’ woeful performance in Queensland’s game two loss.

Arguably the worst-ever showing by a Maroons No.7, the ‘$10 Million Man’ has been left out altogether following Cooper Cronk’s return from injury, with Michael Morgan’s superior form and versatility preferred on the bench.

Whether Morgan or Ben Hunt would have replaced Cherry-Evans if Cronk had again been unavailable is now a matter purely for speculation, but the Melbourne maestro’s recovery undoubtedly gives Queensland its best chance of reclaiming the Origin crown in Brisbane next Wednesday.

So where does that leave DCE’s Origin career?

A veteran of 11 Tests for Australia and six matches for Queensland, he has long been considered the heir apparent to Cronk and Johnathan Thurston.

But his underwhelming efforts when given a starting opportunity in the Origin cauldron have rattled the Maroons’ succession plan.

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Josh Papalii was a surprise choice to replace Josh McGuire. Photo: Getty

Sydney Roosters enforcer Dylan Napa was considered unlucky to miss out on a Queensland debut for the series opener, with Jacob Lillyman and Josh McGuire snaring the bench prop roles.

When McGuire suffered a devastating, season-ending Achilles injury on Friday night, it seemed a fait accompli the redheaded hit-man – who has averaged 131 metres and 28 tackles over the last month in club-land to offset the intermittent absences of Sam Moa and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves – would receive a call-up.

But Canberra wrecking-ball Josh Papalii, who was dumped from the Maroons’ squad after a lacklustre showing in last year’s series-opening loss, has instead been recalled for the decider.

Papalii boasts eight Tests for Australia and three Origins on his résumé and has been in solid form for the Raiders, but will need to lift another couple of gears if he is to prove Queensland’s answer to NSW’s interchange menace David Klemmer.

Backline reshuffle shapes as Maroons’ biggest test

Queensland went about covering superstar fullback Billy Slater’s injury absence with a minimum of fuss.

Greg Inglis, regarded by most as the best No.1 in the world, will shift to custodian, Will Chambers has moved in from the wing to his specialist centre position, and in-form Dane Gagai won a debut call-up on the flank.

But it remains to be seen how much of a disruption the reshuffle will cause the Maroons.

The continuity of a legend-stacked backline was a key feature of their eight-year reign, and the telepathic combinations Queensland has relied on for so long will need to be relearned over the next week.

Retiring stalwart Justin Hodges could be the key for the hosts – they require every scrap of his guile, experience and game-breaking class, and after being given a bath by Michael Jennings in game two, the Broncos captain will be busting to exit the Origin arena with a bang.


1. Josh Dugan
2. Will Hopoate
3. Michael Jennings
4. Josh Morris
5. Brett Morris
6. Mitchell Pearce
7. Trent Hodkinson
8. Aaron Woods
9. Robbie Farah
10. James Tamou
11. Beau Scott
12. Ryan Hoffman
13. Paul Gallen (captain)


14. Trent Merrin
15. Boyd Cordner
16. David Klemmer
17. Josh Jackson


1. Greg Inglis
2. Darius Boyd
3. Will Chambers
4. Justin Hodges
5. Dane Gagai
6. Johnathan Thurston
7. Cooper Cronk
8. Matt Scott
9. Cam Smith (c)
10. Nate Myles
11. Aiden Guerra
12. Sam Thaiday
13. Corey Parker


14. Michael Morgan
15. Josh Papalii
16. Matt Gillett
17. Jake Lillyman
18th man: Edrick Lee

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