Reed Mahoney, the Eels livewire, is set to make his Queensland debut as new Maroons coach Paul Green prepares to approach a hooking strike force with Harry Grant to develop a blues boilover in Origin I.
Green will unveil his first Origin team with the Maroons hierarchy on Monday to name an expanded 20-man roster that will face a series of injury and suspension dramas for the series opening battle on Wednesday.
The only certainty is that Mahoney is a maroon. Green will use the Parramatta rake in Springer # 9, and Grant will be Queensland’s # 14 Super Sub as he makes his way back from a hamstring injury.
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Grant’s frustrating fight opened the door to Mahoney, the tough 23-year-old from Nambour, who opened the door to Parramatta’s rise to the top four this season with an average of 44 tackles per game.
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Just last week, Mahoney received the ultimate endorsement from Queensland legendary 42-game hooker Cameron Smith who believes the Eels Dynamo is tailor-made for Origin.
“I didn’t think he was that far away last year,” said Smith of Mahoney, who has played 68 NRL games since making his debut in 2018.
“He’s played wonderful football for Parramatta for the past three years and it’s a big part of why they were on the top of the ladder and able to play football in the final.”
“Reed is tough, he has done 60 tackles many times in his career. That will be necessary in the Origin arena.”
“He’s got all the threats there, then just before the break you bring a Harry Grant onto the field.
“He can come and use his silky skills and craft to try and tear the blues apart.”
It is believed the 20-strong squad could be named in alphabetical order as Green awaits injury reports on key duo Cameron Munster (foot) and Kalyn Ponga (groin) while Hinterrower Felise Kaufusi at the NRL Justice against a trip load fights.
The Maroons will roll the dice on the bench, with ax killer Jaydn Su’A from the south facing a breathtaking battle while the Broncos rejecting Joe Ofahengaue, who has returned to Origin from the Wests Tigers.
Wayne Bennett dropped Su’A because of the Eale clash last Saturday, but the Souths manager praised the hard hitting backrower when Green contacted him to discuss why the striker had been canceled.
The bench is expected to consist of Grant, Su’A and Titans Young Gun Mo Fotuaika, with Ofahengaue and Cowboys striker Coen Hess remaining to battle for the final exchange spot.
Should Kaufusi be suspended, Su’A will move into the back row with David Fifita, which would allow both Hess and Ofahengaue to play from the bench.
On the backline, Green will give Munster the fifth and eighth guns every chance, as will defender Ponga, who has not played for the Knights since his groin against Canberra on May 8th.
AJ Brimson, the ace of the titans, is an important replacement option for Ponga or Munster. Confident he is fit, despite injuring his knee in his team’s 38-10 loss to Cronulla on Sunday.
“I don’t think it’s a long-term thing. If I’m selected (for Origin) I’ll be right to play,” said Brimson.
“I had a knee fight with the Broncos about four weeks ago and it just hung around a bit.”
Up front, Christian Welch (knee) insists he will be able to run the Queensland engine room, with Jai Arrow and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui joining him as center-forward.
In the three quarters, Dane Gagai and Kurt Capewell are likely centers while Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt has been selected from the 20-man squad and will put pressure on Valentine Holmes and Xavier Coates.
Amid the chaos, the only certainty is that Daly Cherry-Evans will start at the halfback and keep the captain after skipping the Maroons to stardom last year.
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