Queensland Origin In Turmoil With Injuries, Changes One Day Out From Game I
Star centre Dane Gagai under injury cloud with compound dislocation to finger.
Queensland's preparations for the opening State of Origin game have been thrown into turmoil, with star players ruled out and in doubt forcing a last-minute squad reshuffle.
Star fullback Billy Slater was scratched from the team on Monday after succumbing to a hamstring injury, but now winger Dane Gagai is under an injury cloud after a training mishap on Tuesday. Media reported Gagai, the 2017 Origin player of the series, had suffered a serious finger injury, possibly a dislocation or a fracture, which would make him unlikely to play.
Maroons halfback Ben Hunt is also said to be in doubt, nursing a corked leg.
Not long after the Gagai injury came to light, QLD coach Kevin Walters named his final 17-man squad for Wednesday's opening match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The South Sydney Rabbitohs' star was included in the side, with Walters downplaying Gagai's injury and saying he was still set to play.
"He's come up with some sort of injury there... he's going off for scans and x-rays this afternoon, to see how bad it is. I expect him to play. He came back out and trained, he caught some footies and passed some balls," Walters said.
"I think it was a dislocation, then, what do you call it when it breaks the skin? Compound dislocation. I don't think there's any break there, which is the good thing. Obviously he's in a fair bit of pain but again he's got to get the x-ray, but we expect him to play."
Walters also said Hunt was in no danger of missing the game.
"Winger Dane Gagai left the field to receive treatment, but he returned later in the session and Walters is confident he will be fit to play," QLD said in a statement following the team announcement.
North Queensland Cowboys half Michael Morgan, who had initially been named on the bench, has been shifted to fullback to cover Slater. Anthony Milford, from the Brisbane Broncos, will move onto the bench.
However, if either Gagai or Hunt are ruled out, it may force a major rethink of QLD's backline. Morgan would likely move into the halves to replace an injured Hunt, and Newcastle Knights' young gun Kalyn Ponga -- who was rushed into camp as emergency injury cover on Monday -- could move into the fullback position. If Gagai cannot recover in time, it could spark a wider reshuffle.
The injury to Slater, and doubt over Gagai, has seen QLD's odds with the bookmakers blow out further. With former stars Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk all retiring from Origin in 2017, a number of other veteran players not picked by selectors, and now Slater ruled out, the Maroons have lost a lot of experience -- as Sydney media outlets gleefully pointed out.