Billy Slater has officially been cleared to play State of Origin II but Daly Cherry-Evans and Greg Inglis will be given until the last minute in what Queensland captain Cameron Smith admits is a huge gamble.
The Maroons confirmed on Monday that veteran Slater would run out at fullback in Wednesday night’s must-win game in Sydney after overcoming a shoulder complaint.
But the Maroons said halfback Cherry-Evans (knee) and barnstorming centre Inglis (ankle) would be given until game day to prove their fitness.
“Queensland coach Mal Meninga has not set a deadline and will give the players up until kick off to prove their fitness,” a Maroons statement said.
Manly playmaker Cherry-Evans appears the biggest worry for Queensland.
He has not trained at halfback once with the Maroons.
Cherry-Evans’ understudy Ben Hunt – who has played just 13 games as Broncos No.7 – is in line to make his Origin debut in a game Queensland must win to keep their dream of nine straight series wins alive.
“It is a gamble but Daly has been present at all of our sessions, he’s been watching on,” Smith said of their last-minute fitness call.
“It’s pretty late but that’s the situation we are in.
“No one is panicking. Everyone is pretty relaxed about it.”
Smith backed his injured stars to make the right call, just like backrower Sam Thaiday who pulled out of game one with a calf complaint.
“Mal has been really good with guys carrying injuries,” Smith said.
“It has been left up to the player to make the decision. Ultimately they know if they will right to play.
“We saw in game one Sammy Thaiday withdrew knowing he would not be able to fulfil his role.”
Smith said Hunt – who had only stepped up as Broncos No.7 this year after acting as a bench utility – was capable of filling Cherry-Evans’ shoes if needed.
Hunt has spent the last week training at halfback at Queensland’s Gold Coast camp with Cherry-Evans either looking on while icing his knee or being restricted to running drills.
“We would like to see DCE there but if he’s not available I am sure Ben will do a good job for us,” Smith said.