It’s a delicate balance between showing loyalty to past champions and the onset of complacency – and Queensland selectors think they’ve found it.
While it might not be blindingly obvious when the Maroons side for State of Origin game one is named on Tuesday, team bosses are keeping one eye on the future.
There will be no surprises – almost all the old names that guided Queensland to eight straight series wins will still be there, with Broncos forward Josh McGuire the sole debutant and one of only two changes expected to be made to the team that won last year’s dead rubber.
But that doesn’t mean the Maroons are resting on their laurels, according to chief selector Des Morris.
“We’re constantly looking at where we are,” Morris said.
“We’re very conscious of keeping everybody on their toes and making sure everyone earns their position, and it’s not just given for the sake of it.
“The guys know if they make the side or retain their spot then our expectations are pretty high.”
Daly Cherry-Evans is set to keep the coveted utility bench spot in a bitter blow for North Queensland’s Michael Morgan, who has been one of the NRL’s form players over the last few weeks and could not possibly have done any more to push his case.
Morris admits the arrival of players like Morgan, Brisbane’s Ben Hunt and Roosters firebrand Dylan Napa has made life both easier and harder for selectors, who now have a pool of deserving young players bubbling under the surface, waiting for their opportunity.
“It’s great to see that we’re developing quite a few players who can handle that role,” Morris said.
“DCE’s had it for a couple of years now, but Morgan has played quite a few positions and young Hunt from the Broncos, his form has been ideal.
“We’re trying to have it so we reward the guys who have done the job for us and are playing good footy, and then also have these young blokes coming through who are reinvigorating the side with their youth and keenness.
“At the moment our stocks are reasonably good, there’s not too many on the injured list.”
Morris said coach Mal Meninga has his finger on the pulse when it comes to knowing how much loyalty is too much.
“He’s on top of all that sort of stuff,” he said.
“He’s got a really good system in place and it’s worked well for us over the past 10 years.
“Nobody’s afraid to tell the players personally how it is.”