Queensland legend Petero Civoniceva says Warriors back-rower Jacob Lillyman has every right to feel hard done by after becoming the only incumbent Maroon not to win State of Origin selection.
Lillyman will have to be content with being named 18th man for next week’s series opener in Sydney, with new coach Kevin Walters choosing to go with Test props Josh Papalii and Josh McGuire on the bench instead of the 32-year-old mainstay.
Civoniceva said it was an unfortunate outcome for Lillyman, who has barely put a foot wrong since last year’s series but finds himself squeezed out of the side due largely to his team’s NRL struggles – not his own.
Lillyman has actually improved his metres gained statistics from 2015 and is coming off his best game at representative level, Queensland’s 52-6 rout of NSW in Game 3.
But in a battling New Zealand side it’s a case of out of sight, out of mind.
“There’s a train of thought where you would like to reward those who have been there and done it before,” Civoniceva told AAP.
“But also you can’t deny good form.
“At the moment Jacob has been playing good footy but at a struggling Warriors outfit it has been hard for him to stand out.
“Then look at Josh McGuire who is playing in a team that is playing very well at the moment, but he (McGuire) has been a consistent performer over a number of years who deserves his opportunity.”
Walters said Lillyman will simply have to be patient and wait for injury or form to open up a spot in the team.
“Unfortunately, whichever way you want to look at it, he’s the 18th man,” he said.
“The Test team that was picked a few weeks ago had a strong Queensland flavour, particularly through the forwards.
“I found it difficult to leave those guys out – they played well in the Test, their club form was really good.
“Jacob will no doubt play a big part in the series at some stage.”