“The King” of State of Origin, Wally Lewis, shudders to think how long Queensland will extend their reign under Maroons coach Kevin Walters’ succession plan.
Queensland’s production line shows no sign of stopping after young bloods Dane Gagai, Justin O’Neill and Corey Oates helped the Maroons claim a 26-16 Origin II win on Wednesday night, sealing a 10th series triumph in 11 years.
Much had been made of Queensland’s ageing team – again – this year, with former NSW coach Phil Gould claiming the Maroons were “past their best and nowhere near formidable”.
Yet Queensland sealed a second straight series win despite boasting seven players on the wrong side of 30.
They had their eight successive series winning run under previous coach Mal Meninga snapped in 2014.
But Lewis believed the Maroons were primed to launch another record streak under new mentor Walters.
“I shudder to think how many more they will win,” Lewis told AAP.
“A lot of people wonder when they are going to get old and tired.
“But in this form they are going to be keeping the records going.
“They might be a little long in the tooth but they are still going well.”
A changing of the guard looms for Queensland.
Maroons veteran lock Corey Parker is in his last Origin series.
Pivot Johnathan Thurston said he would retire from Origin in 2018 with playmaker Cooper Cronk and Queensland captain Cameron Smith soon to follow.
But Smith said no matter who was blooded, he could not see the Maroons juggernaut slowing down under Walters’ transition plan.
“I am extremely confident that they can do that – the team’s in good hands,” he said.
“It’s brought up every year, our age.
“We are losing Corey Parker next year, another young guy will have to step up in our place.
“But with the guidance of Kev and staff they will be fine – we can just keep moving forward.”
Veteran prop Matt Scott described their succession plan as “flawless” after sealing the 2016 series without Justin Hodges (retirement), fullback Billy Slater (shoulder injury), prop Nate Myles (knee) and centre Will Chambers (foot).
“It’s been flawless which is a massive call considering the guys we don’t have available any more due to retirement or injury,” Scott said.
“O’Neill was outstanding. Oates, Gagai – they have all stepped up another level.
“It is a pleasure when young guys get into this side and continue on what these guys have been able to achieve.”
Walters had not thought about seeking Queensland’s fifth clean sweep after Gagai’s rare hat-trick sealed the Origin II victory at a sold out Suncorp Stadium.
He was still getting his head around what the Maroons had achieved in his first series at the helm.
“There was no Billy Slater, no Nate Myles, no Justin Hodges, no Will Chambers – that’s nearly 100 Origin games between them,” he said.
“For the leadership of the group to bring those younger players in … is really special.”