They’re our own Maroons

By Liam Emerton

This weekend Central Queensland will witness game two of the men’s State of Origin series, where we will get to watch three of our best exports light up the pinnacle of our sport.

Of course, Cameron Munster, Harry Grant and Ben Hunt have been talked about plenty in recent years but there might not be a bigger opportunity for three Central Queenslanders to take home a State of Origin series this early again.

Munster will play the familiar role of five-eighth, where he was named player-of-the-match, Grant will come from the bench and slot into the number nine and replace Hunt who will likely have just a quick 20-minute stint.

The three were instrumental in the opening game victory and will be key again in Perth on Sunday.

It was almost four players from CQ that made the starting lineup with Bilo-born Corey Oates on the verge of a call-up after Xavier Coates’ injury in game one, but he was pipped by Murray Taulagi.

Oates will remain in the 22-man squad and train with the team, coming into the 17 only if one of the wingers goes down.

Speaking to the media after his selection, the head coach of the Maroons Billy Slater said the side will continue building this week before the massive game on Sunday.

“The plan is to get better. It was a great start in game one in Sydney but it was just that, it was the start,” he said.

“There are some players in our team that have had Origin experience and that’s their individual Origin careers but for us, that was the start of where we’re going.

“That was our foundation and our standard and now we build off it.

“I’m expecting everyone from New South Wales to improve, I’m expecting us to improve.

“It brings so much emotion and anticipation to the living room and even watching [game one] on replay I was in the moment. I’m really looking forward to Sunday.”

On Channel 9’s 100 per cent Footy program, Ben Hunt spoke about how his side can improve from game one.

“I think the big improvement will be our attack. I know me personally and the rest of our spine members are going to be working extremely hard to sharpen that up.

“We felt like we could be a lot more sharp and direct with the footy and I think that’s something we can improve on a fair bit.

Hunt then went on to talk about fellow CQ product Cameron Munster, who Hunt said is a one-of-a-kind player.

“He’s a pretty special player, Munny, and that second half of footy has to go up there as one of the best halves in Origin,” he said.

“He doesn’t even know half the time what he’s going to do so we just give him the ball, let him do his thing and push up around him.

“If he can bring something like that to Origin two he’s going to be really dangerous.”

And our men won’t be the only Central Queenslanders representing our state this week as Tamika Upton will line up for the Queenslanders on Friday night in the first women’s State of Origin contest.