NRL Expert @JennaBrooks
Inside the NRL: State of Origin and latest transfer news
Last Updated: 22/05/17 5:07pm
Jenna Brooks has this week's NRL news as the State of Origin teams for Game One are announced, plus the latest transfer news.
The teams for next week's State of Origin game one were announced and the biggest surprise is the omission of Billy Slater, a veteran of 27 Origin games, from the Maroons side. Selectors opting to stick with Brisbane full-back Darius Boyd.
It was a decision that brought coach Kevin Walters to tears. "Billy was very close (to being selected). It was a really tough decision that we had to make around Billy," Walters said.
"Everyone would expect him to come out and change the world. We've relieved him of those duties and I know Darius will get the job done for us. He's a great player and deserves his first crack at the No. 1 jumper."
NSW have made a number of changes to their team. Boyd Cordner has been named captain of the Blues, after the retirement of Paul Gallen. At 24, the Roosters forward becomes the youngster NSW skipper in 21 years.
Cordner said the appointment means the world to him. "It's a massive honour, it's something that I'm very proud of, and I just want to do the boys proud, do my family proud and most of all the state proud."
After missing the last two seasons Jarryd Hayne makes his return to Origin in the centres, with his Gold Coast team-mate Nathan Peats set to make his maiden Origin appearance at hooker. Jake Trbojevic is the other debutant.
Blues regulars Michael Jennings, Josh Morris and James Tamou all miss out on selection.
The biggest transfer news of the week was discovered at Super League's Magic Weekend on Saturday.
Former Cronulla full-back Ben Barba was spotted at St James' Park and I was able to interview the 2012 Dally M winner.
When I asked Barba if the decision to play in Betfred Super League had been made, and it was just a matter of deciding on the right club, he responded: "You could say that. Look it's a competition I've always liked to challenge myself in. It's probably a good time to come now while I'm still only young, I'm only 27-years old.
"The next few days are pretty important for myself and my family and that's why I am here meeting my manager to sort it out and hopefully you will know in the next few days."
We understand St Helens are firm favourites to secure his services.
It looks like Johnathan Thurston will finish his career with North Queensland, after the star playmaker signed a one-year contract extension with the Cowboys.
"It's a real joy to be able to say I'll be continuing on with the Cowboys in NRL season 2018," Thurston said.
"This club has given me so much over my 13 years here. I've played alongside some great talents, worked with amazing people and shared in phenomenal successes."
Meanwhile Josh Dugan will leave St George Illawarra at the end of the season for Cronulla after the Dragons full-back signed a four-year deal.
"Josh will bring quality and experience to our backline next year and to sign the current Origin and Australian Test centre is a major coup for the club and for our future," Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan said.
South Sydney captain Sam Burgess remains confident the Rabbitohs haven't seen the last of Greg Inglis.
"This is probably where he wants to be at the moment. I guess as a team-mate as a friend we just give him all our support and all our love and just send our best wishes to him and his family at this time," Burgess said.
Inglis, who has been sidelined since round one with a season-ending knee injury, checked himself into a mental health clinic last week.
Burgess admitted it's something everyone needs to be more open about. "Mental health's a big issue and not just in sport, but across the population in Australia, across the world," Burgess said.
"People forget sometimes that athletes are human beings too and hold the same feelings as you do as well."