Queensland back-rower Matt Gillett has been ruled out of Wednesday’s State of Origin series decider in a significant blow to the embattled Maroons.
The news came on Tuesday when, barely 10 minutes after saying Gillett would be given until kick-off to overcome a groin injury, coach Kevin Walters returned to announce the 20-game Origin veteran would not be playing.
“We just tried to run him there in the warm-up and he is not coming up too well so he won’t be playing,” Walters said on Tuesday morning.
Dylan Napa has been drafted into the squad but David Fifita is set to be promoted to the starting back-row while Ethan Lowe is tipped to earn an Origin debut on the bench at ANZ Stadium.
Not that Walters was giving away too much.
Asked who would replace Gillett in the starting side, Walters said: “We will make those decisions, that’s for us to know.
“Now that he has officially been ruled out we will make some decisions in the next 24 hours.
“But we’ve got some players more than capable who can put their hand up and do the job for Queensland.”
Walters also refused to confirm if he would swap bench utility Moses Mbye with centre Michael Morgan.
Mbye has been training at left centre in the Maroons camp.
“That’s an option we’ve looked at all week,” Walters said.
“Morgo is such a valuable asset to the side. He’s very flexible.
“We are aways looking at areas to get some benefit. That could be an area where we find some benefit.”
Despite reeling from the withdrawal of Gillett, Walters has backed his side to respond positively to their 38-6 game two thrashing by NSW in Perth.
“Tomorrow night is about making every Queenslander proud again, that’s the objective of the 17,” he said.
“We need to start the game well and stay in the game for 80 minutes.
“It’s all mental. It’s all about our attitude and how we have prepared for the game but I am excited about our preparation.”
Queensland skipper Daly Cherry-Evans is aiming to become the first player to win his maiden Origin series as captain since Cameron Smith in 2008.
“We are expecting him to lead the side like he can. He is a great player, he’s a great leader,” Walters said of Cherry-Evans.
“He has shown that throughout the series. The boys will get in and follow him all the way.”
Queensland is aiming to avoid losing back-to-back series for the first time since 2003-05.
But the Maroons are encouraged by their record in such games.
Queensland has won the past seven deciders and the last two in Sydney.