Maroons v Blues: Walsh gets his shot; Crichton in for Mitchell

The Maroons and Blues renew hostilities on neutral territory in Adelaide with Billy Slater looking to repeat the heroics of his maiden season as Queensland coach in 2022 and Brad Fittler chasing a fourth series success in six years at the helm.

One of the Blues' most decorated players, Fittler took over as coach in 2018 and masterminded back-to-back victories in his first two seasons in charge, before Wayne Bennett led an underdog Maroons side to a stunning upset in 2020.

The Blues hit back with a 2-1 triumph in 2021 before Slater added to his incredible Origin legacy by steering Queensland to victory last year, thanks largely to the efforts of Cameron Munster, Kalyn Ponga, Ben Hunt and Patrick Carrigan.

Melbourne magician Munster is back again to haunt the Blues along with Hunt and Carrigan, but Ponga has been overlooked in favour of Reece Walsh, whose stunning form across the first 12 rounds has earned him an Origin debut.

Also getting their first taste of Origin in Adelaide are Blues trio Hudson Young, Tevita Pangai Junior and Nicho Hynes, with the Sharks superstar expected to be thrust into the action by Fittler around the 30-minute mark to try and expose any weaknesses in the defence.

Doing that job for the Maroons will be Storm hooker Harry Grant, who has been a weapon off the bench coming on after Ben Hunt has plugged the middle in the early exchanges.

The 1-2 punch provided by Hunt and Grant was pivotal to Queensland's 2022 series victory and they are set to have a huge influence again in this year's series.

This is the second time an Origin game has been played in Adelaide, the first being in 2020 when the Maroons won 18-14 in the series opener.

Team News
Maroons: Fullback Reece Walsh is the lone debutant in Billy Slater's line-up, getting the nod over Kalyn Ponga for the No.1 jersey. The Broncos have four players in the squad - Selwyn Cobbo, Patrick Carrigan, Thomas Flegler and Walsh - while the Cowboys also have four in Val Holmes, Murray Taulagi, Tom Dearden and Reuben Cotter. Titans enforcer David Fifita will play his first game since Game 2, 2021 while Storm skipper Christian Welch is back in the 19-man squad after missing last year's series through injury. Dolphins enforcer Felise Kaufusi has missed selection as he faces suspension for a high tackle on Welch in Round 12. Dragons skipper Ben Hunt will start at hooker with Storm star Harry Grant coming from the bench. The side will be led by Manly's Daly Cherry-Evans in his 20th Origin match. 

Blues: A blow for the Blues on Monday with star centre Latrell Mitchell ruled out after suffering a calf strain at training. His place in the starting side is taken by Stephen Crichton while Matt Burton is the new 18th Man. Josh Addo-Carr returns to the Origin fold and will line up on the wing along with Brian To'o – one of five Panthers picked in the 17 along with Jarome Luai, Nathan Cleary, Isaah Yeo and Liam Martin. Knights forward Tyson Frizell will start in his first Origin game since 2020, while Wests Tigers captain Apisai Koroisau has won the battle for the hooker position over Rabbitohs rake Damien Cook. Sea Eagles star Tom Trbojevic is back in the centres after he missed the 2022 series but brother Jake was unavailable due to a calf injury. Rabbitohs centre Campbell Graham has withdrawn due to a sternum injury.

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