Queensland Maroons Training Session
Queensland Maroons Training Session

Bennett axes Origin star for decider

Dally M rookie of the year Harry Grant will be thrust into an Origin decider debut after Wayne Bennett wielded the axe on the misfiring Maroons.

Grant will play his first State of Origin game for Queensland off the bench in Wednesday's series-deciding match against NSW at Suncorp Stadium after Bennett dropped utility Ben Hunt.

Melbourne premiership-winner Brenko Lee is also in the mix to debut in place of winger Phillip Sami, who had a horror performance in Queensland's Game Two loss.

While Bennett has named Corey Allan on the wing, News Corp understands the South Sydney rookie will drop out of the 17 if Lee overcomes a calf strain.

Lee will have a fitness test on Sunday and should he get the green light from Maroons medicos, the Storm giant will make his Origin debut at right centre with Dane Gagai to return to the wing, edging out Allan.

Prop Christian Welch will return from concussion, with Dunamis Lui reverting to the bench and Titans forward Moeaki Fotuaika dropping out of the 17.

Five-eighth Cameron Munster was on light duties at Friday's training session as he returns from concussion.

The elevation of Grant will ease the load on starting hooker Jake Friend and give the Maroons some spark around the ruck.

Grant, 22, was one of the NRL's emerging stars in 2020.

On loan to the Wests Tigers from Melbourne, he led the Dally M Medal counting early in the season and managed 15 games to prove he is one of the game's brightest young hookers.

"I saw Harry as captain of our under-20s and he's always had that natural leadership ability," Welch said.

"If he gets his opportunity, I am sure he will do a great job and complement Jake really well. He's already one of the premier hookers in the comp in my eyes and brings a bit of spark and creativity."

Hunt - Queensland's player of the year just 12 months ago - conceded he was in the firing line after his below-par defensive effort in Origin II.

"It was a very tough night," Hunt said.

"The Blues wanted it more than us from the kick-off. They got stuck into us and we were on the back foot and we hurt ourselves.

"It threw our plans out losing (Munster), we had to reshuffle our spine and our bench rotation.

"I was disappointed with my own game. I hadn't done much training in the halves for Queensland in the lead-up, but I have played halves my whole career and there were no excuses for the way I played.

"I got too narrow minded about my role as a hooker and I didn't expect to miss so many tackles.

"Harry is a good player and he's had a great season so it's Wayne's call as coach and I have to respect that."

Brenko Lee must pass a fitness test on Sunday to play. Picture: Nigel Hallett
Brenko Lee must pass a fitness test on Sunday to play. Picture: Nigel Hallett

The Maroons were outplayed across the park in the 34-10 loss at ANZ Stadium, which was fullback Valentine Holmes' first Origin game in more than two years.

Holmes has retained the No. 1 jersey and said he was itching to rebound from a quiet night in the decider.

"I wanted to be more involved but it didn't help turning the ball over a few times when we didn't need to," Holmes said.

"In this arena, when you give those guys too much ball it hurts us. You do a lot of defending and don't get to play with the ball much.

"It didn't help losing Munster, I did a lot of work with him to bring me into the game. His confidence and what he brings to the team gets us going.

"We prepared all week for Munster and Cherry-Evans to be in the halves and Hunt to come in as a lock, roving player. It threw a spanner in the works a bit, but it's a professional sport and we need to be prepared for that.

"If I am to get the fullback job I will work hard for everyone."

 

QUEENSLAND GAME THREE SQUAD

1 Valentine Holmes

2 Xavier Coates

3 Kurt Capewell

4 Dane Gagai

5 Corey Allan

6 Cameron Munster

7 Daly Cherry-Evans (c)

8 Christian Welch

9 Jake Friend

10 Josh Papalii

11 Felise Kaufusi

12 Jaydn Su'A

13 Tino Fa'asuamaleaui

14 Harry Grant

15 Lindsay Collins

16 Jai Arrow

17 Dunamis Lui

18 Ben Hunt

19 Edrick Lee

20 Moeaki Fotuaika

21 Brenko Lee

Originally published as Bennett axes Origin star for decider


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