Gagai named on wing for Queensland in State of Orign opener
- Author: Julie Sanders May 22, 2017,
May 22, 2017, 15:14
Queensland coach Kevin Walters became emotional talking about Slater's omission after sticking with incumbent No.1 Darius Boyd for May 31's Origin I in Brisbane.
In the team named by Walters earlier today, Milford was named at five-eighth in place of Johnathan Thurston (pending JT's fitness).
With North Queensland Cowboys star and three-time Rugby League World Golden Boot victor Thurston struggling to overcome a shoulder injury sustained on global duty with Australia, Brisbane Broncos playmaker Milford has been given the nod at five-eighth. "Cameron [Smith] has only missed one game (Origin I, 2010) since 2003 so it's been a phenomenal record by both of them for such a long time".
He nearly broke down trying to explain the "very tough" decision, prompting Queensland chief selector Gene Miles to intervene.
"He's probably the best fullback I've ever seen. we didn't make that call lightly".
"We now admit naming Wally Lewis at fullback was an error in judgement and we would like to apologise in advance to Wally's family who may be losing him soon to the heat of battle".
A snub for Slater - 34 next month - may spell the end of his 27-game Origin career.
"He's obviously not happy about the decision but he's accepted it, he said "whatever's best for Queensland"," he said.
"He was very close, mate".
"It was also just a little bit unfair on Billy to put him under pressure for Game One of the series".
"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 first crack at the No.1 jumper".
If Slater is picked, Boyd would move to the left wing where he has played 23 of his 26 Origins.
Thurston has played 36 successive Origin games since his 2005 debut, featuring in 10 series wins in 12 years.
"Johnathan's obviously under a fitness cloud", Walters said.
Walters said Thurston was "unlikely" to play but would be given every chance to overcome a shoulder injury sustained in the trans-Tasman Test.