Just over an hour after being forced to name a 22-man squad for State of Origin II, Queensland lost forward Josh Papalii to an ankle injury.
Queensland’s injury woes deepened on Monday night when forward Josh Papalii was ruled out approximately an hour after being named in a 22-man squad for this month’s must-win second State of Origin clash.
The Maroons had already been forced to name five extra players with doubts over the fitness of Greg Inglis, Billy Slater, Daly Cherry-Evans and Cameron Smith.
While those players will all be given until the end of the week to prove their fitness, Papalii was immediately ruled out after rolling his ankle late in Canberra’s 28-4 loss to the Broncos.
The 22-year-old will be forced to sit out three to four weeks, putting him in doubt for Origin III and opening the door for Warriors forward Jacob Lillyman to return to Queensland’s set-up following his selection in the extended game-two squad.
“I’ve been carrying this injury for a while now and knew if I kept going I wouldn’t be helping the boys,” Papalii said.
“I’ve got to go back and get it right.”
Despite the concerns over so many players, Queensland chairman of selectors Des Morris says the extended squad is hopefully nothing more than a case of being overly cautious and it’s hoped none of those carrying injuries will be ruled out.
“Everyone thinks they’ll be right but we all know that they all want to play and they’re all keen,” Morris told AAP.
“Sometimes that clouds your judgment a bit so we’re just taking a precaution by naming the extra guys.
“The bottom line is we need to start training as a team anyway. By bringing these guys in, the guys that are in doubt, if they aren’t available to train we can have a full training squad and give the rest of the team a bit of an idea of what’s going on.”
Inglis’ ankle injury remains the biggest worry as the Maroons head into camp, after he suffered a syndesmosis injury during South Sydney’s win over the Warriors in Perth on Saturday night.
If the superstar centre can’t prove his fitness, Melbourne’s Will Chambers looks the most likely candidate to replace him in what would be his Origin debut.
Veteran Willie Tonga and Raiders fullback Anthony Milford are also in contention but their selection appears to be more about providing cover for fullback Slater, who hasn’t played since injuring his shoulder in game one in Brisbane on May 28.
Milford said he’ll head up to the camp with the mindset that he’ll be playing.
“I think you have to,” he said.
“Just to take the camp as serious as you can and prepare just in case. Look what happened to Cronk in week one.”
There’s also doubts over Cherry-Evans, poised to take the halfback spot with Cooper Cronk’s broken arm from game one ruling him out of the remainder of the series.
The Manly half failed to finish last weekend’s win by the Sea Eagles over Canterbury due to a knee injury, leaving the possibility of Brisbane No.7 Ben Hunt being given the chance to debut for Queensland.
Hunt said the call-up had left him stunned.
“It’s always the goal. But it wasn’t for this year,” he said.
“I was just trying to play good footy for the Broncos and was lucky enough to get selected in that squad.
“I was just speechless. Didn’t really know what to do.”
Cameron Smith’s ankle injury from game one is less of a worry with the Maroons’ skipper playing in both of the Storm’s NRL fixtures since the Origin opener.
The other new face from the game one squad is forward Sam Thaiday, who earns an instant recall after missing game one due to a calf injury.