Queensland coach Mal Meninga is starting to piece together his team puzzle for Origin II after Billy Slater trained well and Willie Tonga left camp.
Pieces of the team selection puzzle are finally starting to come together for Queensland coach Mal Meninga ahead of next week’s must-win State of Origin game two in Sydney.
Fullback Billy Slater, who is carrying an injured shoulder, has all but been cleared to play after training strongly with the team on Friday.
And back-up centre Willie Tonga will leave the Gold Coast camp on Friday night and link with Parramatta for Sunday’s NRL clash with Canterbury in an encouraging sign for Maroons fans that Greg Inglis (ankle) will be fit for Origin II.
However, Inglis still cut a disconsolate figure when Meninga told him to leave the training paddock and complete Friday’s session boxing with a trainer after warming up with the main group.
Halfback Daly Cherry-Evans (knee) is still restricted to running drills at training but appeared to stretch out more on Friday.
It is believed D-day will be Sunday for the pair with speculation the Maroons 17 that takes on the Queensland under-18s in an opposed session that day will be the same line-up that runs out in Origin II.
Meninga said he was optimistic about his stars’ availability – especially Slater.
“We are pretty sure Billy is a great chance of playing. I think Billy will be okay,” he told Triple M radio’s Brisbane Grill Team.
“Greg hasn’t run yet (before Friday’s training) but he has made huge progress in the last few days.
“We are hoping for him to run on Sunday to see how he is, the same with DCE.”
Inglis had earlier been restricted to pool work and been walking around in a moon boot before getting the green light to warm up with the squad on Friday.
Slater appeared to move freely at training on Friday 24 hours after being relegated to running drills with Cherry-Evans.
Manly halfback Cherry-Evans appears to be the biggest concern.
But in an encouraging sign, Cherry-Evans had ditched his knee brace on Friday.
“Daly ran yesterday at about 75 per cent. He will do more running today, hopefully a bit quicker and we are hoping that he will be right to train on Sunday,” Meninga said.
“It’s all optimistic, it’s all positive.”
Queensland have Saturday off and then face the under-18s team before flying out to Sydney on Sunday night.