Billy Slater’s pricky response to team selection question, Selwyn Cobbo bench selection, State of Origin Game 1

Maroons coach Billy Slater refused to rule out a late change in his side for the State of Origin opener in a tense press conference.

Speaking to the media in Sydney on Tuesday morning, Slater failed to confirm that his team would be out for tomorrow’s highly-anticipated clash, as they have been named.

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“We’ve still got some time but we’ll make a decision closer to kick-off. We’ve got up to an hour before kick-off before the team goes and then it will be final,” Slater said.

The Queensland coach was quick to reiterate his confidence in his team, stating that he “spent a lot of time on this [picking his side].”

“I know I’ve spent more time watching our Queenslanders than anyone.”

Slater added that “when you’re in that position, you have to make decisions,” alluding to his decision to leave Titans back-rower David Fifita on the sidelines while including Brisbane outside back Selwyn Cobbo on his bench.

“Every decision I made for this football team and this country is for this football team and country. That’s why I’m standing here. I’m here for Queensland. This is a Queensland team and sometimes some tough decisions have to be made.”

Despite Slater remaining coy about any late changes to his line-up, the Queensland coach has all but ruled out the possibility of leaving Selwyn Cobb off his bench ahead of Wednesday night’s kick-off.

“Selwyn has been great. He’s really matured over the last few years. He’s a wonderful player. He can play in a lot of positions. At the end of the day, you just want Selwyn Cobbo on the pitch,” Slater said.

“Where that is, you know, we have some idea of ​​that, but that might change as well because more times than not in the last two years they’ve had to replace players because of injuries and for different reasons.”

The QLD coach said he felt “pretty good” about Cobb’s presence on his bench, before adding he had “never had any doubts” about the make-up of his innings despite some, including Maroons great Paul ‘Fatty’ Vautin , questioned Cobb’s inclusion.

With seemingly no changes to his 17 ahead of kick-off tomorrow, speculation remains as to what, if any, changes Slater will make to his starting side ahead of the series in Sydney. At no point in his Origin coaching career has Slater changed his game-day spinners rotation, meaning Ben Hunt is likely to retain his starting role with Harry Grant injected from the pine.

Billy hints at the Maroons' late changes

History shows that on any given game day, the Maroons will switch forwards. Before last year’s series began, Slater moved both of his starters – Tom Flegler and Lindsay Collins – with Tino Fa’asuamaleaui and Reuben Cotter, while in the second game of 2023 Fleger was elevated to the starting position after being originally named to the bench, and Cotter left. pine to the back row, with fellow Cowboy Jeremiah Nanai making way.

However, injuries to Tino, Flegler, Tom Gilbert and Jai Arrow have significantly depleted Queensland’s center forward stock for game one.

Cotter, Fleger and Patrick Carrigan were named starters, while Mo Fotuaika and J’Maine Hopgood will come off the bench. If there are any changes, Fotuaika is more likely to be promoted to the starting side instead of one of Slater’s starting props. Alternatively, Cotter could move into the back row with one of Nanai or Jaydn Su’a.

Time will tell if any of these changes come to fruition, as Slater has been playing his cards incredibly close to his chest.

Originally published as ‘Because I spent a lot of time on it’: Slater’s icy response to the Maroons’ big question

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