Who Will Replace Johnathan Thurston?
Despite only having led for just under three minutes in the entire 2017 State of Origin series so far, Queensland host the decider at Suncorp Stadium and are now faced with the reality of having to pick their third five-eighth in as many games.
With Anthony Milford and Johnathan Thurston nursing injuries on the sideline, players such as Daly Cherry-Evans, Cameron Munster, Michael Morgan and Corey Norman have emerged as contenders to take the No.6 jersey for the do-or-die clash in two weeks' time.
Opinions are divided and speculation is at its usual heights, and veteran NRL commentator and analyst Andrew Voss believes the Queensland spine should have a Melbourne flavour.
“With Anthony Milford sidelined, I'd be picking Cameron Munster,” Voss told NRL.com.
“I know it is a massive occasion to be throwing in a rookie, but how 'comforting' would it be for such a player to wear the Maroons number six in a team alongside his superstar Melbourne teammates Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater?
“As for New South Wales, barring injury, I'd be going with the same 17. They've earned the right in my opinion to have the chance to finish the job.”
The decision for Kevin Walters is not as simple as picking one player out of a group thanks to the versatility of Morgan and Munster, and also the thumb injury of Darius Boyd.
Morgan has been a mainstay on the Queensland bench since 2015 and is certainly expected to be a part of the 17 for Game Three.
Walters all but confirmed that Munster will don the maroon jersey in three weeks' time, and his comments hinted not only that he could be a direct replacement for Boyd, but that Morgan will more than likely remain on the bench.
“Munster will be in the starting 13 somewhere, more than likely left centre” Walters told The Australian.
“We can’t afford not to have a utility there on the bench, there will be someone there with versatility.”
If Munster and Morgan play but don’t start at five-eighth, that leaves Cherry-Evans and Norman as the two main options to link up with Cooper Cronk.
Norman’s progression as a player has been remarkable over the past three years, but Cherry-Evans is in arguably career-best form, and has the advantage of six Origin matches already under his belt.
His last game was in Game Two 2015 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where he carried a minor injury into Queensland’s 26-18 defeat at the hands of New South Wales.
“I think he’s in career best form,” Walters told NRL360.
“When he was picked for Queensland last time, I don’t think he was playing as well as what he is at the moment with the Manly side.
“He’s in contention. We’ve been watching him and what he can do and can’t do. There’s not much that he can’t do at the moment. Certainly all his stats are pointing in the right direction as halves would like to see.”