A revitalised Greg Inglis is primed to take over Queensland’s No.1 jersey in a crunch State of Origin III after confirmation of Billy Slater’s worst injury fears.
Melbourne on Thursday night confirmed the star No.1’s season was over and he would have surgery next week on his injured shoulder.
He did not appear hampered by the injury despite being heavily targeted in Queensland’s 26-18 Origin II loss on Wednesday night in Melbourne.
However, Slater consulted Storm medical staff on Thursday and it was decided surgery was the best course of action to repair a labral tear of his Glenohumeral joint.
“After Billy sustained the injury initially in round five, we knew he would require surgery at some stage,” Melbourne football director Frank Ponissi said.
“At the time, we made the decision with Billy to take the conservative approach and rehab and strengthen the joint to get to the end of the season, but knowing potentially at some stage we wouldn’t be able to continue with this approach.
“While we would love to see Billy out on the field for the rest of the season, it was becoming harder for him to recover each week between limiting his preparation for games.”
It looms as one of a number of team changes with Maroons teammates backing Cooper Cronk to return as halfback and a shake-up in the forwards mooted.
Centre Inglis is the obvious replacement after his barnstorming return to form in game two.
Inglis was a shell of himself in Queensland’s 11-10 game-one win after spending three nights in hospital while being treated for tonsillitis in the lead-up.
However, Inglis was a man possessed in Melbourne, amassing 128m and a remarkable seven tackle busts.
He combined with Darius Boyd to score an Origin record 16th try and could have had another.
However, the video referee disallowed his 90m effort due to a contentious knock-on in the lead-up.
“Inglis will go to fullback – I don’t know whether that’s good or bad (for NSW) because he was colossal last night,” former NSW playmaker Matthew Johns said on Thursday on Triple M radio.
He was just one of Queensland’s walking wounded.
Forward Nate Myles (foot) is in doubt for Gold Coast’s NRL clash on Saturday with the Warriors.
Maroons playmaker Johnathan Thurston will also be monitored before the Cowboys’ Saturday game in Canberra after also copping heavy treatment from NSW.
But most eyes will be on Cronk.
Daly Cherry-Evans failed to step up in his absence and the Maroons will be desperate for Cronk (knee) to return.
“He is a wonderful player and I know he will be doing everything he can to get back on the field,” Slater said.
Former Blues enforcer Mark Geyer also tipped a shake-up in the pack with brutes Dylan Napa and Josh Papalii to be injected.
“They were monstered by (NSW in game two),” he told Triple M.
“The Blues were on a different level from game one.
“They made the Queensland forwards look pedestrian late in the game.”
One of the forwards tipped to make way, Josh McGuire, predictably disagreed.
“They are big boys mate but, with our game plan, we like to change the angles and use our feet,” he said.
“It’s just two different styles really. Obviously last night, we didn’t execute our style to the best of our ability and they got away with the win.”