Billy Slater hits out at ‘disrespectful’ Queensland State of Origin team question

Billy Slater is refusing to buckle to pressure to spill the beans about his team selections for the opening game of the 2024 State of Origin series.

The Queensland coach on Monday said it was “disrespectful” to address speculation about who will replace Cameron Munster in the Maroons team for the series opener at Accor Stadium on June 5 in Sydney.

The Queensland camp as rocked on Monday when the Melbourne Storm confirmed Munster will miss the next 8-10 weeks as he continues to manage a groin complaint which kept him sidelined for the opening month of the season.

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Munster returned in round five and played strongly albeit still hampered by the condition which flared up significantly against the Eels at Magic Round, with the rep star writhing in pain and subbed off just before half-time as the Storm piled on the points without him.

The 29-year-old won’t require surgery at this stage, with Munster likely needing to play through any pain when he returns possibly as early as the round 20 clash against the Roosters at AAMI Park.

The Maroons will now be without one of their most important players with the 2020 Wally Lewis Medal winner out for the entire Origin series.

Munster is one of the modern Origin greats and has always lifted at that level, with Queensland coach Billy Slater now set to turn to Tom Dearden or Ezra Mam in a series that will be missing some of the biggest names in the NRL.

Slater, however, sidestepped a direct question about the Mam-Dearden debate when asked by co-host mark Levy on his Billy Slater Podcast.

He said he will wait until the official team announcement on Monday before addressing his conundrum about the Cowboys playmaker and Broncos five-eighth.

“Until this exact time next week when the teams are announced, it’s all premature conversation,” Slater said on his podcast.

“I understand it being a member of the media and I get the excitement around it but as a person who has to make decisions it is really important to be respectful to all players and allow them to play the game.

“Next week, I’ll be sitting on The Sunday Footy Show in the afternoon. It would be disrespectful for me to talk about individual players who I think will be there or won’t be there when there is still two games to be played after that show.

“You’ve really got to be patient and wait for all the information, do your duty for the state, and then select that team.”

Dearden was impressive in Game 3 of the 2022 series and was 18th man as part of the Maroons squad in 2023.

However, Mam is in red hot form after helping the Broncos reach the 2023 NRL grand final.

Slater spoke at length about the loss of Munster and assured Queensland fans the team will be fine heading into the Origin series.

“Queensland will be okay. Melbourne will be okay,” Slater said on Nine’s The Billy Slater Podcast.

“Someone will get an opportunity there… I haven’t spoken to Cameron personally but this is not a new thing. He’s been battling this all year, throughout the preseason.

“I do go into Melbourne once a week… I know what’s going on there, it’s not new to me, it’s not a surprise.

“I feel for him that he had to go through that on the field. I’ve had a groin injury and I know how debilitating it is.

“For him to be pushing through that pain throughout the year and still performing and then to incur a setback like that, I really felt for him.

“I understand how much time, effort, commitment, and sacrifice our players put into their careers because I did it. When that’s taken away from you through injury it’s tough, both physically and mentally.”

Melbourne Storm football boss Frank Ponissi earlier said in a statement: “Cameron had scans earlier today which showed a tear in the adductor tendon.

“Our club doctor sought independent medical advice and we decided to take the conservative approach through treatment and rehabilitation without the need for surgery.

“While it is obviously disappointing for both Cameron and the club to be missing football at this stage of the season, we are confident this approach will give him the best chance of recovery in the long term.”

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