The loyalty card played so often by Queensland may be kept up new Maroons coach Kevin Walters’ sleeve this year.
Walters insisted incumbent Maroons would need to prove their worth ahead of his maiden State of Origin series at the helm, saying jerseys “don’t just get handed out”.
Walters already needs to re-jig his backline after centre Justin Hodges’ retirement and fullback Billy Slater’s season-ending shoulder injury.
But Walters may also need to reconsider his pack with Brisbane prop Josh McGuire back from an Achilles injury and incumbent front-rower Nate Myles out of sorts at new NRL club Manly.
Walters preferred to stick with those who helped Queensland win their ninth series in 10 years – but offered no guarantees.
“It will be up to those 17 players to play their out of the jersey rather than their way in,” Walters said.
“But I think the players are aware that Queensland jerseys don’t just get handed out.
“If you do get a jersey, you have earned it.
“Those with the current jerseys are fighting for them because they understand what it means to play for Queensland and what it means to the people.
“They will be out to prove their worth in the coming weeks.”
Brisbane winger Corey Oates had been expected to put pressure on Queensland flyer Dane Gagai before breaking down with a six-week shoulder injury last round.
Walters said he would keep his eye on Oates ahead of the series opener in Sydney on June 1.
“He has been great but we would like to see consistency,” Walters said.
“We will see how he comes back from injury.”
Gagai’s Maroons hopes won’t be helped in a rebuilding Newcastle side that will struggle for wins this season.
“We know his capabilities. They (Knights) haven’t got off to the best start and Dane is a lot better footballer than he is showing us,” Walters said.
“It’s up to Dane to improve himself to get himself back into the frame.”
Daly Cherry-Evans may find it hard to budge North Queensland’s Michael Morgan for the Maroons utility bench spot after an underwhelming season start with Manly.
Asked about Cherry-Evans’ prospects, Walters said: “Everyone is in the selectors’ eyes.
“Some players are right on top of their game at the moment, others aren’t quite there.
“I am sure they will pick themselves up.”
While Walters looked forward to putting his stamp on the Maroons, he kept the door open to his predecessor Mal Meninga.
“I really respect what Mal has done with this team over the last 10 years,” Walters said.
“I would be silly to ignore what has happened in the past.
“He will be a guy in our corner.
“Hopefully we will see him about the camp.”