Origin bosses choose debutante over Fifita with plenty of familiar faces

Queensland have given Parramatta forward J’maine Hopgood a State of Origin debut, axed wrecking ball David Fifita and recalled North Queensland five-eighth Tom Dearden and St George Illawarra back-rower Jaydn Su’A.

May 27, 2024, updated May 27, 2024
David Fifita of the Titans has been left out of the 17 for the opening State of Origin match on June 5.(AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

David Fifita of the Titans has been left out of the 17 for the opening State of Origin match on June 5.(AAP Image/Dave Hunt)


Hopgood, 25, was named on Monday in the 17 for the State of Origin series opener in Sydney on June 5 while Dearden edged out Brisbane’s Ezra Mam to replace injured Cameron Munster at No.6.

Su’A, who last played Origin in 2021, has been rewarded for powerhouse club form while Dearden shone on Origin debut in 2022 and has been backed by Maroons coach Billy Slater to do so again.

Brisbane centre Selwyn Cobbo has been picked on the bench where he can cover all the outside back positions.

Fifita, who played all three games of last year’s 2-1 series win, has been left out despite winning the Scott Prince Medal as man of the match in Gold Coast’s 36-34 win over his former club Brisbane on Sunday.

Hopgood was named as 19th man in game three of last year’s State of Origin series by Slater after a stellar season for the Eels where he played every game.

He averaged 123m in attack and 40 tackles per match in 2023 for the Eels, mostly at lock, in a side that struggled.

Before this season kicked off, Maroons selector Gene Miles told AAP how impressive that was.

“It just goes to show the quality of the player,” Miles said.

“They didn’t go as well as they would have liked but J’maine performed week-in and week-out. The tough get going when the going gets tough and he did everything he needed to in order to impress us.”

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This season has taken a similar turn for Hopgood. He’s played every game and clocked up 37 tackles and 121m per game in 11 matches in an underperforming outfit. Throw in his 21 offloads and it is clear why he is so highly regarded.

Queensland recalled second-rower Jaydn Su’A to the State of Origin side after a three-year absence. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)
Slater is set to benefit from Origin stability, with the Maroons to take a far more experienced side into the series opener than NSW.

A day after new coach Michael Maguire opted to make 11 changes for the Blues from Game III last year and name six debutants, there are no such challenges for the Maroons.

Apart from Hopgood, Queensland will take 16 other players with Origin experience to the series opener.

It comes with Queensland in a period of stability not seen since the days when Slater was a mainstay of the Maroons squad.

Queensland were forced to debut only two players in last year’s series, with Reece Walsh getting his maiden jersey in game one and Corey Horsburgh in game three.

Last year’s series marked the least Queensland debutants since 2014, when two also debuted.

QUEENSLAND MAROONS: 1 Reece Walsh, 2 Xavier Coates, 3 Valentine Holmes, 4 Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow , 5 Murray Taulagi, 6 Tom Dearden, 7 Daly Cherry-Evans, 8 Reuben Cotter, 9 Ben Hunt, 10 Lindsay Collins, 11 Jaydn Su’A, 12 Jeremiah Nanai, 13 Patrick Carrigan, 14 Harry Grant, 15 Moeaki Fotuaika, 16 J’maine Hopgood, 17 Selwyn Cobbo, 18 Felise Kaufusi, 19 Brendan Piakura, 20 Ezra Mam.

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