Queensland coach Mal Meninga says Billy Slater will be given until Saturday to prove his fitness for next week’s State of Origin opener.
Already dealing with the loss of bench utility Daly Cherry-Evans, the Maroons are now sweating on Slater who is nursing a shoulder complaint.
It’s believed Newcastle’s Dane Gagai is on standby, but the Queensland camp are quietly confident Slater will pass fit.
There was speculation Slater would need to prove his fitness on Thursday to remain at the Maroons’ Gold Coast camp.
However, Meninga said Slater would be assessed on Saturday, the day before the team flies to Sydney to complete preparations for the match on Wednesday at ANZ Stadium.
“He’s got another 48 hours,” Meninga told Brisbane’s Triple M radio station on Thursday.
“He’s settling down really, really well.
“He had a scan yesterday, it’s still the same as it’s always been.
“(But) we’re confident he will play.”
Meninga also confirmed Cowboys playmaker Michael Morgan would fill the interchange vacancy created by Cherry-Evans’ withdrawal, not 18th man Dylan Napa.
Slater missed the Kangaroos’ recent trans-Tasman Test loss to New Zealand due to the same injury.
Queensland backrower Matt Gillett – who underwent a shoulder reconstruction two years ago – admitted Slater’s complaint was tough to manage.
“They are hard to maintain. It can be good and then during a game you get a knock on it,” he said.
But Gillett said the feeling in the team was that Slater was simply easing his way into the camp after being a notable absentee at training to date.
“Billy is just being the professional that he is – he is fine,” Gillett said.
“He is just preparing the way he does.”
Meninga adopted a tough love approach with injured players this year and made an early call on Cherry-Evans (shoulder).
He was keen to avoid a repeat of previous years when preparation was disrupted by injured players being given until the last minute to prove their fitness.
The fact that Slater has been given until Saturday indicates Queensland medical staff are confident he will come though.
Rookie Morgan was rushed into the squad for Cherry-Evans on Wednesday.
Meninga said Morgan would slot onto the bench instead of Sydney Roosters giant Napa, despite the Blues’ huge 42kg bench advantage.
“Yes… Michael Morgan, straight into the team,” Meninga said.