Queensland manager Paul Green will mark one of the greatest games of chance in Origin’s 41-year history by giving 18-year-old Warriors front runner Reece Walsh his Maroons debut for game two.
News Corp can reveal that Walsh will become Queensland’s youngest player in 26 years, since Ben Ikin in 1995 when he was 18 years and 352 days old when he wore the No. 1 sweater to save the series at Suncorp Stadium next Sunday night.
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Walsh has only played seven NRL games and only made his debut in April, just weeks after his shocking decision to leave the Broncos for a $ 1.2 million deal with the Warriors.
The former Broncos sensation hit the NRL like a tsunami this season in its rookie year, and now Green is hoping his offensive brilliance can take fire with fire against a glowing NSW backline.
One of the biggest bombs in Origin folklore, Walsh’s picks are reminiscent of images of Ikin, chosen for Queensland after just four first class games at the age of 18 years and 83 days during the 1995 Super League War.
* Cowboys prop Frank Molo will also make his Origin debut, crowning an emotional battle following the 2015 James Ackerman tragedy;
* Discard Broncos and Dragons hooker Andrew McCullough has won a dramatic Origin Arena recall to replace injured rake Harry Grant; and
* Jaydn Su’A and Joe Ofahengaue were dropped from Origin I after the Queensland 50-6 debacle.
After their horror show in Townsville, Maroons selectors have shunned any thought of conservatism and are betting on fresh blood to ignite a resistance in Queensland at Suncorp
After just seven games, the Queensland U18 sensation has four tries, six line breaks, eight try assists and 22 tackle busts and an average of 123 meters per game.
When Ponga was ruled out during the week, Green Walsh helped to carry out an Origin baptism against the formally strong Blues.
“There have been people in the past who could deal with it at a young age,” said Green.
“As Wally Lewis (NRL Immortal and Queensland Legend) said, ‘If you’re good enough, you’re old enough.’
“I had nothing to do with Reece, but by all accounts he’s a confident kid.”
Walsh told News Corp last week: “It would be crazy to put on the Queensland jersey at senior level.
In other news, McCullough is set to make a stunning comeback at the Origin arena after Grant collapsed in Melbourne’s loss to the Wests Tigers on Saturday night.
The 31-year-old played the last of his three Origin games in 2018, and McCullough’s Queensland career seemed over when he was fired from the Broncos for a stint with the Dragons in February.
But after two injury-ridden years, the Dalby product was a revelation for the Dragons, playing 14 games and reviving his combo with former Broncos teammate Ben Hunt, who is also returning to Camp Maroons.
The inclusion of Hunt as the # 14 utility is the ultimate redemption for the Dragons playmaker who missed the epic boom in the blues last year in the Origin decision after being dropped by Wayne Bennett after his poor performance in Game 2 .
McCullough will be part of an engine room led by Josh Papalii, who returns to the side with a lock after the absence of Origin I.
Walsh’s defender will lead Valentine Holmes to join Kyle Feldt on the wing, leaving no room for Coates, who was canceled after indifferent form at the fighting Broncos.
Kurt Capewell will stay in the center-left while Fifita gets a shock on the bench, with Souths workhorse Jai Arrow partnering with Felise Kaufusi in the back row.
But perhaps the biggest surprise is a debut for Cowboys professor Molo, who nearly gave up on the game six years ago after Ackerman’s tragic death in an Intrust Super Cup game.
Molo left the Broncos to seek a fresh start in Townsville, and the move has paid off for the 26-year-old enforcer who will hit the bank with Fifita.
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