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Maroons Make Bold Changes for State of Origin Decider



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Billy Slater has implemented significant changes to the Queensland Maroons team for the upcoming State of Origin decider at Suncorp Stadium. Among the alterations are the return of Knights players Kalyn Ponga and Dane Gagai, while Gold Coast forward David Fifita once again missed out on selection.

Ponga, who recently recovered from a Lisfranc injury, has been named on the bench, while Gagai will take on a starting role at centre due to injuries affecting Murray Taulagi and Xavier Coates in the Queensland backline.

Another notable change sees Selwyn Cobbo and Valentine Holmes taking up the wing positions, with Jaydn Su’A replaced by Kurt Capewell in the backrow.

Despite calls to include Fifita, Slater opted for continuity with veteran Felise Kaufusi retaining his place on the bench.

Renowned journalist Phil Rothfield expressed bewilderment at the decision to overlook Fifita once again, emphasizing the impactful playing style he could bring to the squad.

Slater defended the choice, citing that the selected players had earned their spots and highlighting that Fifita is still working to reach his peak form from the previous season.

Melbourne Storm‘s Harry Grant, despite nursing a sternum injury, was named on the bench, with Reed Mahoney included as 20th man for cover.

Gagai, making a comeback to Origin after his absence in the previous series, proved his worth with a strong performance for the Newcastle Knights over the weekend.

Ponga, too, showcased his prowess in his return game, adding an X-factor to the Maroons’ lineup off the bench.

Slater emphasized that while these changes are crucial, they alone will not address the challenges faced by Queensland following the Game 2 loss against the Blues.

The finalized Queensland squad for Game III includes a mix of experienced and emerging talents, set to face off against New South Wales in the series decider.

Rachel Adams

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