Queensland coach Mal Meninga says Michael Morgan’s versatility in a reshuffled Maroons backline forced them to make the “difficult” decision to cut Daly Cherry-Evans for State of Origin III.
Selectors could not find room for game two halfback Cherry-Evans in their 17 after the return of Maroons No.7 Cooper Cronk from a knee injury.
North Queensland’s Morgan kept the bench utility spot ahead of Cherry-Evans who failed to impress as starting halfback in the Maroons’ Origin II 26-18 loss in Melbourne.
There was speculation Cherry-Evans was on the outer after the Manly playmaker attended a Sea Eagles corporate golf day rather than fly to Brisbane for Queensland’s team announcement on Monday.
Meninga said Morgan got the nod over Cherry-Evans because he covered more positions.
“It was a tough decision, obviously,” Meninga said.
“We feel that at this point Michael is the best option, he plays more positions – simple as that.
“It wasn’t something we would like to make but we think we have made the right one (decision).
“From a team perspective we thought Michael was the best option.”
Morgan was seen as the ideal option for a new look Queensland backline that will feature debutant Dane Gagai.
Newcastle’s Gagai slots into a backline reshuffled after fullback Billy Slater’s season-ending shoulder injury.
Greg Inglis moved to fullback with Will Chambers filling his centre vacancy and rookie Gagai on the wing.
Queensland picked Cronk despite the halfback not playing since being ruled out of the Maroons’ game two loss.
Canberra giant Josh Papalii was named as the bench forward replacement for Broncos prop Josh McGuire (Achilles).
He played the last of his three Origins in game one last year and his experience edged out contenders Korbin Sims of Newcastle and Sydney Roosters enforcer Dylan Napa.
“Josh’s experience got him over the line. He understands what Origin is all about,” Meninga said.
Meninga said prop Matt Scott would join the Origin camp later in the week after staying in hometown Townsville receiving treatment on his neck.
And he dismissed concerns for winger Darius Boyd who suffered a groin complaint in Brisbane’s NRL win over Newcastle on Friday night.
“It has settled down really well. He will be right to train probably Thursday,” Meninga said.
Queensland will fly out for a fan day on Tuesday in Proserpine before settling into their Gold Coast camp on Wednesday.