Maroon star banned from decision maker as veterans face ax in Slater shakeup: Origin Team Tips

Queensland head coach Billy Slater has confirmed Felise Kaufusi will not side with the Maroons for Origin III Channel Nine’s Sunday Footy Show.

Kaufusi recently flew to Los Angeles to be with his ailing father.

The Storm announced the 30-year-old’s departure in a press conference ahead of their 36-30 loss to the Sea Eagles, showing that Kaufusi had the club’s full support.

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The Storm forward was a sure-fire starting point for Queensland in the decision-making phase, but Slater will now have to find a replacement.

Jeremiah Nanai played the first two games off the bench and was promoted to starting line-up with Beau Fermor, who was part of the extended roster for game two, to join the bench.

Alternatively, David Fifita made it through 55 minutes on Friday in his return from a knee injury.

MAROON VETERANS FACING THE AX

Maroon veterans Josh Papalii and Dane Gagai are reportedly facing the axe as Billy Slater ponders a shakeup on the Queensland side for the Origin decider.

The Courier Mail Reports Gagai was dropped for Cowoys aviator Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow after the Maroons veteran missed a whopping 18 tackles in the first two games.

However, former Maroon Scott Sattler urged Slater to stick with Gagai.

“I know Dane Gagai has been criticized a lot, but he deserves to make up for it in Game Three,” Sattler told the Courier Mail.

“Some guys feel comfortable in familiar surroundings and Dane has played some of the best games of his career at Suncorp Stadium.

“I think Dane can bounce back, he’s a proud NRL player and he has experience, so he won’t be caught off guard by the opportunity of a decision maker.”

Papalii, meanwhile, has played limited minutes in the series and is also at risk, according to the Courier Mail.

According to the reports, the Maroons are concerned about the Raiders enforcer’s body language in Game 2 and may send him to the bank.

“I know it’s on Papa’s mind too,” Raiders coach Ricky Stuart said at a press conference on Friday when asked about Papalii’s dwindling Origin minutes.

“He wants to show that he can still play at that level.

“I have no doubt that he can.”

Gagai missed eight tackles in the Maroons’ 44-12 loss to the Blues in Game II. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

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COBBO’S FUN TO SLATER AFTER GAME 2 NIGHTMARE

Auburn rookie Selwyn Cobbo has begged coach Billy Slater to stay with him for the state of origin decision after a struggle in Game 2.

Cobbo faces a selection showdown with Murray Tualagu as the Broncos take on the Cowboys on Saturday night with club teammate Corey Oates waiting in the wings.

“I hope Billy gets me back on the team,” Cobbo told the Courier Mail.

“I’m not sure (if he will be picked for Game Three), I have to perform well this week and hopefully Billy wants me back.

I’m shocked at how difficult Origin is. It’s a different game from NRL. I enjoyed it, but it’s really physical and faster than anything I’ve ever played.”

According to the Courier Mail, there is a belief within the Maroons camp that two rookie wingers make them vulnerable and could cause a squad change.

Selwyn Cobbo’s place on the side of the Maroons is threatenedSource: Getty Images

O’BRIEN IRRITATED OVER PONGA ABSENCE

Kalyn Ponga had to miss the Knights’ showdown against the Titans this weekend due to concussion protocols, and coach Adam O’Brien isn’t too happy.

O’Brien noted that the Queensland doctor cleared Ponga in an HIA after game two, but the NRL bunker ruled that the player had suffered a category one concussion – putting him out of action for a week.

O’Brien said: “The first process for us is let’s clear all that up with the specialists who know a lot more than I do, and that should clear up the rest.

“He passed the post-match assessment with the Queensland doctor… number one for me as a coach, but then also as someone who cares about him, he was OK.

“The frustration is that the people who actually talk to him and do the assessment don’t get the final decision.

“We’ll send him to the specialists and make sure everything is okay, but he’s there and I had a chat … he seems pretty good.”

Ponga is expected to return for Game III.

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O’Brien confident despite season start | 03:53

BELLAMY TRUST MUNSTER WILL BE GOOD

Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy is confident that Cameron Munster will recover in time from a shoulder injury sustained in Game 2 to appear in the final.

Munster missed Melbourne’s defeat to the Sea Eagles on Thursday night, but Bellamy revealed after the game that Munster was close to playing – and that Origin should be fine.

Bellamy said, ‘He’ll be there. He wasn’t far off today I think. Sometimes you get mixed messages at Munster. I think he played on Tuesday and didn’t play then, but I’m pretty sure he will be good for Origin.”

JOEY SUPPORTS BURTON TO STICK

NSW boss Brad Fittler also faces some tough decisions, but Andrew Johns believes Matt Burton should stay with the Blues.

Jack Wighton and Latrell Mitchell have been touted as possible options to join the Blues team that crushed QLD 44-12 in game two.

And while Johns sympathized with Wighton, who missed Perth’s win because of Covid-19, he wrote for Fairfax: “But you just can’t replace Matt Burton. He must stay.

“He has the gift; the gift of being in the right place at the right time.”

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