NRL Expert @JennaBrooks
NRL Talking points: State of Origin opener
Tune into Sky Sports Arena and Main Event from 10am on Wednesday to watch the first State of Origin clash
Last Updated: 05/06/18 8:00pm
Jenna Brooks has the latest as the State of Origin opener approaches, and find out why both Johnathan Thurston and Andrew Johns were left furious. Plus the latest on Craig Bellamy's future.
Queensland have been dealt a massive blow just days out from the State of Origin series opener.
Billy Slater, who had already announced his retirement from representative rugby, has been ruled out of Game I after aggravating a hamstring injury.
The question everyone is wondering is, has the veteran full-back played his final Origin game? When asked the question, Slater's response was, "I haven't really thought about that."
Brisbane's Anthony Milford and Newcastle's Kalyn Ponga have arrived in Melbourne as potential replacements, and Slater believes both players will get the job done.
"We have a few options. I'm not too sure which way Kevvie (Kevin Walters) and the selectors are going to go but whichever way we go we will have a great full-back and a good side," Slater said.
Slater's injury has opened the door for Ponga to potentially make his Origin debut and the 20-year old admitted it was surreal but said mentally he was ready for the challenge.
"Physically, I pulled up well from the game on the weekend. I'm feeling on top of the world being picked for a team like this.
"I'm pretty proud. It's a proud moment for me to even be invited into the Queensland camp and be around such great personnel," Ponga said.
Queensland head coach Kevin Walters believes his rookies will have no problem handling the pressure.
"It's Origin. We're confident in the 17 we've picked …. they've got enough Origin experience to get them through the game OK."
Rugby League immortal Andrew Johns was left furious after a late tackle on Jonathan Thurston during the Cowboys 26-12 win over Manly.
The four-time Dally M winner was left in pain after a late tackle by Jack Gosiewski. It's the second week in a row the Cowboys captain was hit late and left visibly hurt.
"I hate it, get it out of the game," Johns said. "Give them suspensions and it will stop - long suspensions. It's gotta stop."
Thurston also expressed his anger and has called for the NRL to act on it and abolish late hits.
"It's not in the spirit of the game and it's not part of our team. It's not part of the way we play," Thurston said.
"What's it going to take? A broken rib and be out for three-four weeks before they really stamp down on it?"
Thurston overcame the incident and led his team to their fourth win of the season, ending a three-game losing streak.
Will he stay or will he go? That is the big question being asked of Melbourne head coach Craig Bellamy.
Bellamy has been offered a four-year deal with Brisbane from 2020, but some reports suggest he could get the job from next season, despite Broncos current coach Wayne Bennett being contracted until the end of 2019.
Other reports are saying he has made up his mind and will stay on in Melbourne, with the club offering him a three-year extension worth close to a million pounds a year, which would be one of the highest paid contracts an NRL coach had ever signed.
The Storm play the Broncos on Sunday, live on Sky Sports Arena, and at the pre-game presser, Bellamy, who was alongside Bennett, was asked what his future held.
"If I am not coaching Melbourne next year, I will not be coaching the Broncos," Bellamy said.
"Wayne has a contract and I have to decide what I will do next year."
So where does it leave Bennett? Given his connection with England, If Brisbane pay him out, could it trigger a move to Super League?
Watch this space.
Valentine Holmes has made quite a name for himself over the last three years. So it's no surprise the Cronulla winger has attracted attention from other clubs.
He's contracted to the Sharks until 2020, and it's believed they want to keep him long-term, but Holmes has an option that can make him a free agent next season and he's eager to see what offers come his way.
One of those offers could come from North Queensland. It's believed the Cowboys are interested in signing him as their long-term full-back.
Aaron Woods could finish the season at Cronulla, with reports suggesting the Bulldogs are looking to offload him to clear salary cap space.
The prop has also attracted attention from Newcastle and the Warriors, but Woods has made it clear he would prefer to move to Cronulla and head coach Shane Flanagan has also expressed his interest.
"We are short one big man, and Woodsy is definitely that," Flanagan told Fairfax Media.
"I haven't spoken to Woodsy or his manager, so we'll see what happens over the next week or two and we'll go from there."
Moses Mbye was released from the Bulldogs and has signed a four-year deal with the Wests Tigers from next season. But there's talk that the playmaker could finish this season playing for the Tigers.