Qld rookies’ steep Origin learning curve

Qld rookies’ steep Origin learning curve

They have learned from the best.

But Queensland great Greg Inglis admits he won’t know if rookies Corey Oates and Justin O’Neill will be up to State of Origin until the series opener kicks off on Wednesday night in Sydney.

Strike centre Inglis has taken the backline duo under his guidance at the Maroons’ camp, especially new winger Oates in a bid to conjure a new right-edge combination.

Inglis has liked what he has seen at training from Brisbane livewire Oates and O’Neill, who is set to step up in the absence of retired centre Justin Hodges.

But the veteran of 27 Origins is not taking anything for granted.

“Practise all you want. You’ve got to wait until the first ball is kicked off (before you realise you are ready for Origin),” Inglis said.

Asked what it meant to become a Maroon, Inglis said: “The mental toughness, it brings out the character in a lot of players.

“It is one of the great spectacles.

“It builds what is inside you – it tests your character.”

Queensland coach Kevin Walters admitted his two debutants would be feeling the heat on Wednesday night but backed them ahead of his first Origin series at the Maroons’ helm.

“It is different to debuting at home,” said Walters, a 20-game Origin veteran for Queensland.

“Justin and Corey are going to be under enormous pressure in many areas.

“It is a step up (to Origin), there is no doubt about that, But hopefully with those two, they have some good experience around them.

“We are hopeful that will combat the (NSW attacking) raids on them.”

Inglis has helped set new fullback Darius Boyd up for 16 Origin tries for Queensland.

To boot, Inglis has scored an Origin record 17 of his own.

Boyd will attempt to fill the big shoes left behind by injured fullback Billy Slater (shoulder) when he moves from the wing to don the Queensland No.1 jersey for the first time.

Yet Boyd was more concerned with the threat Inglis and newcomer Oates posed, saying it was “scary” what damage they could create on the right edge against NSW in Origin I.

“This week will be good for Oatesy just to get used to how GI plays, especially in defence,” Boyd said of their training at camp.

On Oates, Maroons veteran No.1 Billy Slater said: “He is what you would call a green racehorse.

“Naturally, he will be carting the ball out of trouble.

“And he can get across the line as well. He’s tall so he will be great under the high ball, too.”

Meanwhile, Queensland will give injured halfback Cooper Cronk (ankle) until Wednesday morning to prove his fitness.

“He’s quietly confident he can play. But tomorrow, we have to make a decision,” Walters said.

Walters believed the final word on Cronk’s fitness would come down to the man himself.

“I will let Cooper make the call,” Walters said.

“In the past, we have taken players who are not quite 100 per cent and it has fallen apart.

“We don’t want to fall into that trap.”

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