Queensland has dropped veterans Darius Boyd and Matt Scott for next week’s State of Origin opener as coach Kevvie Walters looks towards a new era.
The Maroons have won 11 of the last 12 Origin series’ against New South Wales but will be without retired champions Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith this year.
All three have continued to play at club level but despite their absence, Walters has not erred on the side of caution with his squad.
Instead he also axed Boyd and Scott, preferring a more youthful squad for the MCG fixture.
Hooker Andrew McCullough, lock forward Jai Arrow and Felise Kaufusi have all won Origin call-ups for the first time, with Walters insistent Scott needed more football under his belt after recently returning from a serious knee injury.
“He’s been playing some good football for the Cowboys, but we felt that it’s in the best interest of the team, for game one, to go without him,” Walters said.
“Scotty thinks he is playing good football and I didn’t argue with him there but I just think that for game one we can go with some other players in the side.”
Walters said that both Boyd and Scott were extremely disappointed when they heard the news.
“That’s the hardest part of the job, ringing them and letting them know they’re not in the team,” he said.
“The flipside is that I get to ring other players and tell them that they are in the team.
“Darius Boyd was disappointed but Valentine [Holmes], some of the tries he scored in last years games still stay with me and just at the moment we feel that he is the best option for us at left wing.”
After claiming a tight 2-1 win in last year’s series, Walters acknowledged that the forced and unforced changes to his 2018 squad will make it tough for his side.
“We will need to be a lot better this year and our players need to be a lot better,” he said.
“That’s my job and [the job of] the rest of the staff.”
Veteran Greg Inglis will captain Queensland after Smith surprisingly announced his retirement from representative football earlier this month.
New South Wales will announce its squad on Monday evening.
Queensland squad: Billy Slater, Valentine Holmes, Greg Inglis, Will Chambers, Dane Gagai, Cameron Munster, Ben Hunt, Dylan Napa, Andrew McCullough, Jarrod Wallace, Gavin Cooper, Felise Kaufusi, Josh McGuire, Michael Morgan, Coen Hess, Josh Papalii, Jai Arrow