Valentine Holmes says he's ready to fire in his favoured position of fullback as the Maroons made several changes to their 21-man squad for the Ampol State of Origin clash in Sydney on Wednesday.
Prop Christian Welch has been ruled out after the concussion he sustained in the 18-14 win over NSW in Adelaide and has been replaced in the starting side by Canberra prop Dunamis Lui, who will make his Maroons debut.
Jaydn Su’A moves from the bench to the starting back-row with Coen Hess left out of the 21 altogether.
Titans prop Moeaki Fotuaika comes onto the bench and will also make his Origin debut for Queensland.
Corey Allan, Brenko Lee, Edrick Lee and Josh Kerrr have been named as players 18-21.
Match: Blues v Maroons
Game 2 -
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Holmes, who was serving a one-match suspension and missed game one, said that he had big shoes to fill after being brought in due to the Lisfranc injury suffered by AJ Brimson in Adelaide which ruled him out for the series.
"I’m ready to go and injury-free," Holmes said. "It’s special and an honour to pull on the jersey in the first place."
Blues make major changes, Holmes back for Maroons
"To play fullback, a lot of great fullbacks have played for this state and represented the state really well. Brimmo did an awesome job on Wednesday night and it’s very unfortunate with his foot injury."
Holmes has started in all of his five Origin games on the wing where he has been a revelation, scoring eight tries. He insists fullback is his best position.
Match Highlights: Blues v Maroons
"I like to be around the ball more and sniff [around] pushing up through the middle," Holmes said.
"I know I can finish on the wing. When you have a great team like this they can make you look good on the wing.
"To get the best out of me, I need to be touching the ball more through the middle third and getting off some good ruck speed and offloads. [At fullback] is where I’ve always found my best footy.
"I’ve obviously played well for Queensland on the wing. I haven’t played fullback for Queensland. I just want to play footy, that’s what I’m here to do and love doing. It doesn’t matter where I play."
Holmes said he had learned plenty from the Maroons' best fullbacks and had more to give himself in that position.
"I was lucky enough to play with a lot of the guys I looked up to like Darius Boyd and Billy Slater," he said.
Fullback for Blues is number 1 James TedescoFullback for Maroons is number 1 Valentine Holmes
Winger for Blues is number 2 Daniel TupouWinger for Maroons is number 2 Xavier Coates
Centre for Blues is number 3 Clinton GuthersonCentre for Maroons is number 3 Kurt Capewell
Centre for Blues is number 4 Jack WightonCentre for Maroons is number 4 Dane Gagai
Winger for Blues is number 5 Josh Addo-CarrWinger for Maroons is number 5 Phillip Sami
Five-Eighth for Blues is number 6 Cody WalkerFive-Eighth for Maroons is number 6 Cameron Munster
Halfback for Blues is number 7 Nathan ClearyHalfback for Maroons is number 7 Daly Cherry-Evans
Prop for Blues is number 8 Daniel SaifitiProp for Maroons is number 8 Dunamis Lui
Hooker for Blues is number 9 Damien CookHooker for Maroons is number 9 Jake Friend
Prop for Blues is number 10 Payne HaasProp for Maroons is number 10 Josh Papalii
2nd Row for Blues is number 11 Angus Crichton2nd Row for Maroons is number 11 Felise Kaufusi
2nd Row for Blues is number 12 Tyson Frizell2nd Row for Maroons is number 12 Jaydn Su'A
Lock for Blues is number 13 Jake TrbojevicLock for Maroons is number 13 Tino Fa'asuamaleaui
Interchange for Blues is number 14 Dale FinucaneInterchange for Maroons is number 14 Ben Hunt
Interchange for Blues is number 15 Junior PauloInterchange for Maroons is number 15 Lindsay Collins
Interchange for Blues is number 16 Nathan BrownInterchange for Maroons is number 16 Jai Arrow
Interchange for Blues is number 17 Isaah YeoInterchange for Maroons is number 17 Moeaki Fotuaika
- Referee: Gerard Sutton
- Touch Judge: Chris Butler
- Touch Judge: Todd Smith
- Senior Review Official: Steve Chiddy
"Those two really stick out. Matty Bowen was another great player I used to like watching at fullback.
"I feel like I learnt a bit from Brimmo the other night. He’s a very good fullback who works hard and is always there.
"It goes to show when you’re supporting and pushing up good things happen."
Holmes left the game at the end of 2018 to pursue an NFL career but when he returned in Cowboys colours this season he had his sights set on a return to the Origin arena.
Bennett heaps praise on young Maroons
"I’m pretty excited to be here," he said.
"I didn’t think too much about it when I was over there, but when I made the decision to come back it was on the radar to try and get back in this arena.
"Just because I left it doesn’t mean I don’t want to play in the team ever again."
Holmes did mostly conditioning work at training on Friday with Maroons teammates who are yet to play this series. He said he was physically and mentally ready for the challenge despite not having played since round 20 against the Broncos.
"Origin isn’t usually at the end of the year or three weeks in a row so it’s something we’ve all had to adapt to," he said.
"It doesn’t help having not played any finals footy
"It’s been over a month, nearly two, since I’ve played, but these guys have kept in shape and I did training before I came into camp."
Game two tickets start from $45 for members and $49 for general public or get your wig and experience the Blatchy’s effect from $85 for members or $90 for the general public