Maroons coach Paul Green will gamble on teenage rookie Reece Walsh at fullback in Sunday’s must-win Origin II clash at Suncorp Stadium with Queensland making five changes to the side belted 50-6 in the series opener.
Walsh, 18, will become the youngest Origin debutant since Ben Ikin in 1995 when he runs out in the Maroons No.1 jersey made famous by the likes of Gary Belcher, Darren Lockyer, Billy Slater and Greg Inglis.
Cowboys front-rower Francis Molo will also make his debut while veteran hooker Andrew McCullough, Canberra prop Josh Papalii and Dragons utility Ben Hunt return to the side with Xavier Coates, Joe Ofahengaue, Jaydn Su’A all axed while Harry Grant (hamstring) and AJ Brimson (knee) were ruled out with injury.
But the huge story is Walsh, the player who Broncos coach Kevin Walters thought wasn’t ready for first-grade action earlier this year now getting ready for the biggest game of the season.
Match: Maroons v Blues
Game 2 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Frustrated at his lack of opportunities at the Broncos, Walsh left Brisbane two months ago to join the Warriors and has now played just seven NRL games before an Origin debut.
Walsh will start at fullback with AJ Brimson out with a knee injury, with incumbent No.1 Valentine Holmes moved to the wing and Broncos winger Coates axed.
The Broncos are now without a single player in the Queensland Origin side for the first time in history, while two players they released this year Walsh and McCullough are back in Maroon.
McCullough will play his first Origin game in three years after getting the call up following a hamstring strain to Harry Grant and a shoulder injury to Eels hooker Reed Mahoney who is also unavailable.
Papalii returns to the Maroons after serving a high tackle suspension and will add much-needed experience to a forward pack that was totally dominated by NSW in Origin I in Townsville.
Sharks winger Ronaldo Muiltalo and Cowboys forward Coen Hess are also in an extended squad.
If Mulitalo is promoted to the game day 17, he would become another debutant.
1. Reece Walsh - New Zealand Warriors
2. Valentine Holmes - North Queensland Cowboys
3. Kurt Capewell - Penrith Panthers
4. Dane Gagai - South Sydney Rabbitohs
5. Kyle Feldt - North Queensland Cowboys
6. Cameron Munster - Melbourne Storm
7. Daly Cherry-Evans - Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
8. Christian Welch - Melbourne Storm
9. Andrew McCullough - St George Illawarra Dragons
10. Josh Papalii - Canberra Raiders
11. Jai Arrow - South Sydney Rabbitohs
12. Felise Kaufusi - Melbourne Storm
13. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui - Gold Coast Titans
14. Ben Hunt - St George Illawarra Dragons
15. Moeaki Fotuaika - Gold Coast Titans
16. David Fifita - Gold Coast Titans
17. Francis Molo - North Queensland Cowboys
18. Coen Hess - North Queensland Cowboys
19. Ronaldo Mulitalo - Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
Origin II in Brisbane is sold out but tickets are still on sale for game three at Stadium Australia in Sydney on July 14 - get your tickets at NRL.com/tickets.