NRL Expert @JennaBrooks
NRL Talking points: Origin II and Josh Hodgson inspires
Last Updated: 19/06/18 12:28pm
Jenna Brooks has the latest from the NRL as Origin II looms, plus Josh Hodgson inspires in his comeback from injury and Craig Bellamy's future is finally resolved.
On Sunday New South Wales will attempt to win just their second State of Origin Series since 2006, live on Sky Sports.
The Blues took a 1-0 series lead when they beat Queensland 22-12 in Melbourne earlier this month, but Queensland have received a huge boost ahead of Origin II.
Star full-back Billy Slater has been named in an 18-man squad, after his club side Melbourne Storm revealed he's fit and could have played at the weekend.
"We will give Billy every chance to prove his fitness and if he can't we have a replacement ready to go," Queensland coach Kevin Walters said.
A hamstring injury kept Slater out of the opening game of the series and NSW coach Brad Fittler expects the Origin veteran to bring a lot to the Maroons side.
"Billy is back and he will make them a lot tighter, without a doubt," Fittler said.
"I've never seen Billy underdone. He's a freak. The way he has come back this year is quite incredible. Everyone in footy is pretty proud of him. His ability and to come back at the level he has, it's hard not to be a Billy Slater fan."
Fittler has chosen Cronulla Sharks enforcer Matt Prior to make his Origin debut and the Blues boss can't wait to give the 31-year old his first shot at Origin.
"I've always been a fan of Matt Prior," Fittler said. "I'm really excited for a 31-year old bloke, picked to play his first game. He won't let anyone down."
Prior admits representing NSW at Origin is something he has always hoped of achieving.
"I've never actually just given up on it, especially over the last few years, I've put it on my goal list and it's something I've been working towards," Prior said.
He will become the seventh oldest player to make his State of Origin debut when NSW look to complete a series win in front of a home crowd.
Josh Hodgson is back and the Raiders couldn't be happier.
Hodgson made his highly-anticipated return from a knee reconstruction sustained during last year's World Cup, and it was a return to remember.
The England international helped Canberra to a 48-12 victory over the Wests Tigers - their biggest win of the year.
Hodgson played 46 minutes and set up three tries to inspire the Raiders to their sixth win of the season, moving them to within four points of the top eight.
"It's been a long road and to come back to a game like that and a result like that is obviously fantastic," Hodgson said.
Canberra head coach Ricky Stuart was full of praise for his star hooker.
"Yes, he is that big a difference to the team," Stuart said. "Definitely we have missed Josh, as any football team would miss their world class players.
"I said all along that we were never going to use it (Hodgson's injury) as an excuse. We wouldn't be where we are on the table if he had been playing at the start of the year."
Raiders captain Jarrod Croker said it was like the England star had never been away.
"The boys just know what Hodgo's going to bring," Croker said. "He's the ultimate professional, you could just see how hard he worked to get back here. We didn't want to put too much pressure on Hodgo because we knew he's probably put enough pressure on himself."
You can see Hodgson in action on Saturday morning live on Sky Sports Arena when Canberra take on Brisbane.
Craig Bellamy has finally made his decision. He will remain head coach of Melbourne Storm for a further three years.
Bellamy, who has been with the Melbourne club since 2003, was offered the top job at Brisbane Broncos, but opted to stay on in Melbourne, with the deal believed to be worth around £1m per year.
Bellamy admitted he did consider replacing Wayne Bennett as head coach at the Broncos, but said he's happy he's made his decision to remain with the Storm.
"It is (a relief), it's been going on for a while but there was a fair few things, footy-wise and family-wise that needed to be sorted out," Bellamy said.
"I wouldn't think there was one major factor (that got the deal over the line), there was a whole heap of things.
"The main thing would be that the Storm gave me my opportunity to coach in the NRL, and I feel a real bond with the players down there, probably more so the older players as well."
Bellamy has brought two premierships to Melbourne during his 15 seasons with the club.
It's been confirmed. Super League's Magic Weekend will be replicated in the NRL next year when an entire round is played out of the one venue - Suncorp Stadium.
Magic Weekend was organised by the RFL in 2007 to help promote the sport, and after the success of the inaugural event, it has since become an annual fixture in the Super League calendar
The NRL has announced that over three days in May next season, an entire round of eight fixtures will be played, with the hope of also making it an annual event Down Under. The concept is expected to inject almost £35m into greater Brisbane.
"The 16 clubs have been very supportive of doing something innovative. This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase our game and create a festival-like occasion for a premiership round.
"There's probably not a better place to try it than here in Queensland. I expect it to be a roaring success," NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said.