Surprise recall of Willie Tonga for Origin 2
QUEENSLAND will resurrect the State of Origin career of Parramatta veteran Willie Tonga if Maroon match-winners Greg Inglis and Billy Slater fail to overcome worrying injuries eight days out from Wednesday week's return State of Origin at Sydney's ANZ Stadium.
The experienced 30 year-old Eel, who played his eighth and last Origin in game one of the 2011 series. has been preferred to blooding Newcastle backline utility Dane Gagai and brilliant Canberra fullback Anthony Milford should one or both Queensland stars be ruled out.
Tonga will only play if both Salter and Inglis withdraw with winger Darius Boyd moving to fullback and Tonga, a strong Defender, replacing him on the left wing.
The fact Tonga has a decade-long Origin resume and knows the structure and team culture appealed more to Queensland selectors than gambling on a rookie who could crack under the pressure.
Tonga's career has hit some tough times in the past few years playing just 12 games for Parramatta in 2012. He injured himself during the 2013 pre-season and after undergoing career-saving back surgery did not make it back onto the field until July, playing just four games all season.
On the injury front, Inglis (ankle) is considered the most unlikely of Queensland's injured trio which also includes Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans (knee).
While there are lingering concerns over Slater's shoulder, former Queensland five-eighth and new state selector Darren Lockyer has been given assurances from his NRL club medical staff the champion fullback is a good chance to play.
Cherry-Evans is also understood to have given coach Mal Meninga the strongest indication possible he'll be fine to take over Cooper Cronk's No.7 jumper after the Storm halfback broke his arm in last month's epic Origin opening match which left a trail of carnage for both states to overcome..
If Inglis is the only player to pull out, Brisbane-born, Northern Territory junior, Will Chambers, who trained with the Maroons for the entire Origin I camp, would make his Oirign debut in the centres.
Whatever transpires, coach Mal Meninga, given the must-win situation after dropping the first game in Brisbane 12-8, will give all three injured players as much time as they need to confirm their fitness with Chambers and Tonga training with the team until a final decision is made on their fitness.
Brisbane back-rower Sam Thaiday, who missed last month's 100th Origin game, returns to the starting pack with Meninga dropping either Mat Gillett or Chris McQueen to the bench to take Cherry-Evans spot.