Broncos stake Origin claim

One Brisbane player left Queensland selectors’ heads spinning.

Another Bronco’s head was simply spinning.

But in the end coach Wayne Bennett thinks seven Broncos staked a State of Origin claim in their 19-18 NRL loss to North Queensland in Townsville on Friday night.

Brisbane backrower Matt Gillett all but clinched a starting spot for June 1’s series opener in Sydney with a sparkling two-try display.

However, Queensland coach Kevin Walters would have been forgiven for being more concerned with Brisbane winger Corey Oates, who wasn’t sighted in the second half due to dizzy spells.

Bennett tried to allay fears over towering winger Oates before Walters confirmed his 17 for Origin I in Brisbane on Tuesday night.

“He’s got a bit of a head knock – he should be okay,” he said.

“He shouldn’t be a concern for Origin.”

There was no doubting Gillett’s Origin potential after Friday night.

The hulking backrower not only shone in attack, running off halfback Ben Hunt, he also proved invaluable in defence by cutting down try-bound centre Kane Linnett 11 minutes into the second half.

His 80-minute effort that produced 89m, 34 tackles, six tackle busts, two tries and two line breaks would no doubt have snuffed out Cowboys backrower Gavin Cooper’s Origin I claims.

Oates may have missed the second half on Friday night, but it seems Bennett still expected the winger to hold out Cowboys flyer Kyle Feldt and be one of many Queensland call-ups on Tuesday night.

“We will probably have seven players in the Origin series,” Bennett said.

“No one will have more.

“It’s a bit heartbreaking to be leaving them knowing you are not going to see them for the next two months.

“Knowing we are in great shape, great form.

“We are going to come back not as the team that we are now – after that I have no idea how we will play.”

In some relief, Bennett played down second-half injuries to hooker Andrew McCullough (shoulder) and prop Jarrod Wallace (elbow) that opened the door for North Queensland to come back from 18-6 down.

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