FUTURE ON THE LINE
QUEENSLAND’ S g r e a t e s t players have been warned heads will roll if the Maroons crash to back- to- back series defeats in tonight’s Origin decider at Suncorp Stadium.
Maroons coach Mal Meninga said “players will play themselves out of the team” unless they are honest about their future contributions to the Queensland jumper.
The Maroons are on the verge of generational change, with Queensland to field eight players over the age of 30 tonight in their quest for a ninth series victory in 10 years. A ninth squad member, Queensland prop Matt Scott, turns 30 later this month.
Meninga is famed for his loyalty and has long subscribed to the mantra that age is irrelevant if his veteran troops, such as 33- year- old Trojan Corey Parker, continue to fire in Maroon. But another NSW triumph tonight will herald the end of Queensland’s recordbreaking dynasty and force Maroons hierarchy to consider expediting their succession plan.
Meninga is determined to avoid a sudden decay of his champion squad and says performances tonight will have a bearing on the future composition of his Maroons team.
“I encourage players to be honest and they will know when to retire. But in saying that, our players will play themselves out of the team if they go on too long,” Meninga said.
“The players honest with me have to be about their ability to play at this level – performance is everything.
“There will be a changing of the guard at some point. I don’t know when that is, but at the end of the day you have to put plans in place.
“Corey Parker is a good example that age is not always an issue, he’s gotten better as he’s got older. I like the players to make their own decision and to go out on their terms, but I’m not too soft to say, ‘ It may be time to go’.”
Parker, who plays his 16th Origin game tonight and will be the oldest player on the park at Suncorp, admits a Queensland defeat tonight could lead to blood in the selection room.
“There will be all sorts of stuff spoken about if we lose,” he said. “It’s the job we’re in.
“We’re all on notice, it doesn’t matter if it’s your first game or your 21st game, it’s a results business. It’s performance- based.
“As someone at the back end of my career, you hear you are too old all the time but if you look at some of the players in our team people are calling too old, I know who I would have in my side.
“Are Johnathan Thurston and Cameron Smith too old? “It’s all talk I suppose.” Meninga backed another 30- something, Maroons halfback Cooper Cronk, to succeed in the Origin decider in his return from minor knee surgery. “Cooper is fit to go,” he said. “One of his greatest qualities is his preparation and he loves this arena. He loves to make a difference and he lives for these sorts of moments.”
ALL TO PLAY FOR: The Origin futures of Maroons veterans Corey Parker, Cameron Smith and Greg Inglis will depend on tonight’s result.