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Maroons Origin 3 team options: Morgan firming to replace Ponga

With Maroons fullback Kalyn Ponga set to miss the State of Origin series decider with a calf injury, Queensland appear to have five options for the No.1 jersey.

Michael Morgan, Cameron Munster, Moses Mbye, Corey Norman and Anthony Milford have played at fullback at club or representative level.

Morgan is believed to be the frontrunner for the No.1 jersey with Maroons selector Darren Lockyer indicating on Channel 9 commentary during the Bulldogs' win over Cronulla that he thought the Cowboys captain would handle the role.

The Knights released a statement on Sunday morning saying scans have revealed Ponga has a calf strain and is "expected to miss the next two weeks".

The QRL has yet to make an official statement on whether Ponga is in or out of Origin III in Sydney on July 10.

The Maroons are expected to make two other changes to the side that lost 38-6 in Perth with Broncos prop Joe Ofahengaue, who impressed in the series-opening win at Suncorp Stadium, recalled to the line-up after returning from a leg laceration in the Broncos’ loss to the Knights in Newcastle on Saturday night.

Storm prop Christian Welch is in line for an Origin debut after being on standby as 18th man in Perth. The 24-year-old has been in Emerging Maroons camps and was on the cusp of an debut for Origin I before injuring his meniscus.

Jarrod Wallace is believed to be under pressure to retain his place in the Queensland squad. The QRL will announce its official team on Monday at 9am.

The fullback options

Michael Morgan

Morgan played fullback in game one of the 2018 series when Billy Slater was ruled out with injury and has also lined up in the role this year for the Cowboys. It is the position where he had a breakout season with the Cowboys in 2014 when Lachlan Coote was injured.

If the Maroons moved Morgan to fullback they would need a new centre. Maroons winger Dane Gagai, who has played there before for Queensland, could slot in and Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt given an Origin debut on the wing. Newcastle’s Edrick Lee is likely no longer an option after suffering a suspected broken arm in the round-15 win over the Broncos.

Cameron Munster

Munster is a ready-made option for the Maroons at fullback if they were to go down that path. It is his preferred position and where he played for Melbourne in the 2015 and 2016 seasons when Slater was injured. If Munster moved from five-eighth, Morgan would be the likely halves partner for Daly Cherry-Evans. Morgan won the 2017 World Cup with the Kangaroos playing in the halves but is yet to play there for the Maroons.

Maroons pivot Cameron Munster.
Maroons pivot Cameron Munster. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

Moses Mbye

The versatile Wests Tigers captain has played the majority of his 2018 and 2019 games at NRL level at fullback. Moving him to the back would mean the Maroons would need a new utility player on the bench with Milford and Norman the likely options.

Maroons squad member Corey Norman in Perth.
Maroons squad member Corey Norman in Perth. ©Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

Corey Norman

Norman broke into the NRL with the Broncos in 2010 as a free-running fullback and played the entire 2013 season in the position. He has made a name for himself in the halves in recent seasons for the Eels and Dragons and has the advantage of being in the Maroons' extended squad in Perth for Origin II. Norman is regarded by Walters as a player who could handle Origin on his ear and if he were chosen to make his debut, it would also mean Queensland would not have to change any of their other backs.

Anthony Milford in the 2018 series.
Anthony Milford in the 2018 series. ©NRL Photos

Anthony Milford

The same applies for Milford who returned to fullback in Brisbane’s loss to Newcastle on Saturday night for the first time at club level since 2014 when he was at the Raiders.

Milford has already played twice for Queensland – once as a utility and once in the halves – and is a player Walters has a long association with in his former role as Broncos assistant coach.

There is a question mark over Milford's short-term fitness however after he injured a knee late in the loss to Newcastle. The Maroons would be unlikely to bring a new player in to camp if he was unable to train for the entire week. 

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.

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