Who takes the tee? Maroons’ worrying void exposed
KEVIN Walters probably doesn't have enough Panadol to deal with the number of headaches he now faces.
The Queensland coach enters his first Origin series without any of Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith.
All three champions have retired from Maroons duty, leaving Walters to find almost an entirely new spine with just three weeks to go until the series kicks off.
But that's not where his problems end.
On top of looking for a new captain, a new hooker, a new halfback and a new five-eighth, he must also find a new goal kicker.
It's the job that Thurston has held a mortgage on for the past 14 years. And when he couldn't take the tee, it was Smith who generally stepped up to the plate.
Between them, they have taken 94 per cent of Queensland's conversion attempts in that time. Only nine shots at goal have been taken by someone else.
"Normally you've got at least one specialist kicker from one of the clubs in your side, but being so blessed over the years with Thurston and Smith, I don't remember anyone else taking a shot at goal for Queensland in the last 15 years," Walters said on Wednesday.
And Walters knows all too well just how important conversions can be. In fact, they can win or lose you an Origin series.
"In the last couple of years we've games by a goal kick, and that kick has come from Johnathan Thurston," he said.
NSW has their own sharpshooter in James Maloney.
But who now takes the tee for the northerners?
Thurston's goal kicking success rate over a long NRL career is 79.5 per cent (873 from 1098 attempts). Smith's is 74 per cent (1048 from 1416 attempts).
In Origin, Thurston's goes up slightly to 79.8 per cent, while Smith's drops to 67.9 per cent.
Still, there's no clear candidate for who will assume the duties at the MCG on June 6.
Of the possible contenders, Val Holmes' kicking record at NRL level is 71.9 per cent (23 of 32 attempts.
Then there's Ben Hunt (69.4 per cent), Cameron Munster (52.2 per cent), and Dane Gagai (42.9 per cent).
A couple of possibles who may not even be selected in the team are Daly Cherry-Evans (69.4 per cent) and Kalyn Ponga (65.4 per cent).
Walters admitted Ponga's chances of selection have suddenly improved, based purely on his ability to kick goals.
But exactly where he would squeeze into the team remains a mystery.
So ... who takes the tee?