FU­TURE ON THE LINE

Townsville Bulletin - - STATE OF ORIGIN III - PETER BADEL

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.”

Pic­ture: GETTY IM­AGES

ALL TO PLAY FOR: The Ori­gin fu­tures of Ma­roons vet­er­ans Corey Parker, Cameron Smith and Greg Inglis will de­pend on tonight’s re­sult.

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