Queensland assistant Trevor Gillmeister says the Maroons are set to go with an all-forward bench in the State of Origin opener if Cooper Cronk fails to overcome an ankle injury.
Gillmeister says Warriors backrower Jacob Lillyman is likely to feature on the interchange and not Manly playmaker Daly Cherry-Evans if bench utility Michael Morgan has to step up for injured halfback Cronk on Wednesday night in Sydney.
In a sign Gillmeister’s bench call is on the money, Cherry-Evans did not feature in Sunday’s training session after being sent back to NRL club Manly.
Queensland coach Kevin Walters had initially claimed Cherry-Evans would remain at their Gold Coast camp as cover for Cronk after arriving on Friday night.
“I would be very surprised if he (Cronk) didn’t play,” Gillmeister said on Sunday.
“Cooper will do everything he can. We will give him until the Monday or Tuesday.
“The physio says he is coming along nicely, hopefully he has enough time.”
Gillmeister said Queensland could afford to pick an all-forwards bench due to their squad’s utility value.
“We are pretty fortunate with that regard that our blokes can interchange (positions),” he said.
Cronk was again not sighted at training on Sunday as he continued round-the-clock icing of his ankle.
Lillyman trained with the squad after arriving at their Gold Coast camp on Friday.
Gillmeister said it would be good to see Lillyman back in the squad after initially being the only incumbent Maroon overlooked in new coach Walters’ original 17 for Origin I.
“I thought Lillyman had his best game for Queensland in game three (last year’s 52-6 win) and was unlucky to miss out,” he said.
“I love Jakey. You know what he brings.
“If he gets a chance he won’t let us down.”