The Maroons are carrying some significant injury concerns but have backed their depth to keep alive their dream of nine straight series wins.
Queensland selectors are set to contemplate a significant reshuffle for Origin II while giving their battered stars until the last minute to prove their fitness for the Sydney clash.
With their quest for nine straight State of Origin titles shaky, Maroons selectors boss Des Morris admitted the injury news in the wake of Wednesday night’s 12-8 opening-game loss to NSW meant the Queensland camp face a nervous wait over the next two weeks.
Famous for their loyalty amid an unprecedented dynasty, selectors will be sweating on the injury assessments of skipper Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk ahead of the June 18 rematch.
Morris said the line-up may remain a mystery as Smith faces one to two weeks out with a low-grade right ankle sprain and fullback Slater three weeks with a grade-two AC joint sprain to his right shoulder.
“We just have to see who is going to be available. We may have to wait a couple of weeks,” Morris told AAP.
He was already reeling from news that halfback Cronk (broken arm) would be out for up to three months after lasting just 10 minutes on Wednesday night.
At least there was some relief when the man who will attempt to fill Cronk’s shoes in Origin II, Manly playmaker Daly Cherry-Evans, downplayed his injury concerns.
Cherry-Evans was seen on crutches at the team hotel on Thursday nursing a tender hip and a heavily strapped left knee.
“I was a bit worried about it. It just needed a night to settle so I’m hoping it’s alright,” Cherry-Evans told reporters.
Still, a major Origin II overhaul looms for the reigning eight-time champions.
Broncos backrower Sam Thaiday (calf) should return, ensuring some nervous moments for out-of-sorts incumbents Chris McQueen and Josh Papalii.
Brisbane prop Josh McGuire and Gold Coast Titans giant David Taylor may also be called upon to add some punch off the bench.
Canberra fullback cum pivot Anthony Milford may be seen as either a bench utility option or even a replacement for Slater depending on the Test No.1’s recovery.
Sydney Roosters No.9 Jake Friend has already been earmarked as Smith’s understudy after being Queensland’s 19th man for game one.
Veteran Brent Tate backed Queensland’s depth to help turn the tables on the Blues.
“We have had to deal with this before – we just have to knuckle down,” Tate said.
“We have always spoken about our depth and we back the young guys coming through the (Emerging Origin) academy.”