Slater picks Cobbo among 4 Origin rookies for Queensland
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — First-time Queensland coach Billy Slater has picked four rookies including teenage Brisbane Broncos winger Selwyn Cobbo in his debut selection for the State of Origin series against New South Wales.
Slater on Monday unveiled Cobbo and Cowboys lock Reuben Cotter in his starting lineup and added Pat Carrigan and Jeremiah Nanai to the interchange bench in an overhauled squad aiming to win back the annual Origin series from the Blues.
The 19-year-old Cobbo, who has scored 10 tries in his last six games in the National Rugby League competition, was preferred to Broncos teammate Corey Oates and Cowboys pair Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Murray Taulagi on the wing.
“He’s taken the game by storm,” said Slater, a star fullback for the Melbourne Storm, Queensland and Australia who played 31 Origin matches from 2004-18. “He’s really lit the game up — brings so much excitement — but he’s doing a lot right that we don’t focus on as well, which is a big reason why he’s there.”
St. George-Illawarra captain Ben Hunt will start at hooker ahead of Melbourne’s Harry Grant, who will fill a utility bench role for a Maroons squad led by Daly Cherry-Evans at halfback.
The three-game series, one of the biggest fixtures on Australia’s sports calendar, starts June 8 in Sydney.
New South Wales has won three of the last four series since Queensland’s run of 11 titles in 12 years ended in 2018.
Blues coach Brad Fittler also made a high-profile change in the outside backs, selecting Sydney Roosters winger Daniel Tupou over the experienced flyer Josh Addo-Carr.
On Monday, Fittler confirmed Canberra’s Jack Wighton would start in a midfield along with Broncos center Katoni Staggs, who will be making his Origin debut.
“The big thing with Jack is he has played in that position for us a few times and done a good job,” Fittler said, adding that Wighton’s Origin experience was the key to the selection. “I was mindful of not putting inexperienced people together.”
New South Wales: James Tedesco (captain), Brian To’o, Kotoni Staggs, Jack Wighton, Daniel Tupou, Jarome Luai, Nathan Cleary; Payne Haas, Damien Cook, Junior Paulo, Cameron Murray, Tariq Sims, Isaah Yeo. Interchange: Stephen Crichton, Liam Martin, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Ryan Matterson.
Queensland: Kalyn Ponga, Selwyn Cobbo, Valentine Holmes, Dane Gagai, Xavier Coates, Cameron Munster, Daly Cherry-Evans (captain); Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Ben Hunt, Josh Papalii, Kurt Capewell, Felise Kaufusi, Reuben Cotter. Interchange: Harry Grant, Lindsay Collins, Patrick Carrigan, Jeremiah Nanai.
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