Queensland has suffered a major setback on the eve of naming its team for next weekend’s must-win State of Origin match, with Harry Grant in severe doubt.
The Melbourne hooker aggravated his hamstring injury in Storm’s big NRL win over Wests Tigers on Saturday and will have scans on Monday.
While not officially ruled out, it seems highly unlikely the 23-year-old will be fit to play, particularly given there is less than a week until the game at Suncorp Stadium.
Maroons captain Daly Cherry-Evans, who warmed up for game two by celebrating a 56-24 win with Manly over Gold Coast in his 250th NRL appearance, admitted that even though his Origin career is only two games old, losing Grant would be a big blow.
Harry Grant is in doubt for #Origin II after picking up a fresh injury 🤕
— NRL (@NRL) June 20, 2021
“It’s definitely not ideal. Harry Grant is a phenomenal player,” Cherry-Evans said.
“He’s still so early in his career, but he’s establishing himself as one of the best hookers in the comp.
“It’d be silly for me to sit here and talk about hypotheticals. We’ll find out tomorrow who’s in and who’s out. But if he’s out, he’ll be sorely missed because he’s a really good player.”
Losing Grant leaves Maroons coach Paul Green searching for a replacement in the No.9 jersey as Queensland looks to bounce back from a 50-6 hiding by New South Wales in game one to keep the series alive with Parramatta’s Reed Mahoney (shoulder) also unavailable.
Ben Hunt, who was expected to come into the team in a utility role could play hooker, or his St George Illawarra teammate Andrew McCullough may be thrust into his first Origin since 2018.
— NRL (@NRL) June 20, 2021
As well as Grant, the Maroons are expected to be without AJ Brimson from game one, with the Titans fullback having not played since that match in Townsville due to bone bruising on his knee.
With Kalyn Ponga (groin) also out, the Maroons either have to retain Valentine Holmes in the No.1 jersey or could pick a bolter such as Warriors wonderkid Reece Walsh.
If picked, the 18-year-old would be the second-least experienced player to debut since Ben Ikin in 1995 during the Super League war for the Maroons.
One player who will definitely be coming in is Canberra’s Josh Papalii, who missed game one due to suspension, while Kurt Capewell is likely to move into the second row from centre to allow Will Chambers to make his first Origin appearance since 2019.
Whatever the final line-up is for the Maroons, Cherry-Evans is confident bouncing back from the 44-point hiding in Townsville isn’t a mission impossible.
“I’m not taking anything away from them, they played outstanding. But we need to be better in certain areas to limit where they get the ball and how they get the ball,” he said.
“If we don’t fix it the same thing will happen, but I feel like we’ve got the right players in the team to change that.”
LIKELY QUEENSLAND TEAM: Valentine Holmes, Xavier Coates, Will Chambers, Dane Gagai, Kyle Feldt, Cameron Munster, Daly Cherry-Evans (capt), Christian Welch, Harry Grant/Andrew McCullough, Josh Papalii, Felise Kaufusi, Kurt Capewell, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui. Interchange: Ben Hunt, David Fifita, Jai Arrow, Moeaki Fotuaika.
NSW brings in Finucane and Angus Crichton
NSW have brought in Angus Crichton and Dale Finucane into their squad to replace the injured Jake Trbojevic in State of Origin II.
The Blues on Sunday night opted to name a 20-man squad in alphabetical order rather than a starting 17, leaving Queensland guessing on their team make up.
The squad presents coach Brad Fittler with two options, one of which would have Finucane come into the side as another middle after debuting in 2019.
The other would see Crichton enter as an edge backrower who can also play middle if required next Sunday, be it off the bench or starting.
Either way, it appears certain Payne Haas will start after coming off the bench in Game I.
The squad is otherwise unchanged as it prepares to fly to Kingscliff for camp on Monday.
NSW SQUAD: James Tedesco (capt), Josh Addo-Carr, Latrell Mitchell, Tom Trbojevic, Brian To’o, Jarome Luai, Nathan Cleary, Daniel Saifiti, Damien Cook, Payne Haas, Angus Crichton, Tariq Sims, Isaah Yeo, Jack Wighton, Junior Paulo, Cameron Murray, Liam Martin, Dale Finucane, Apisai Koroisau and Campbell Graham.