Meninga supports Origin newcomer
MAL Meninga denied Queensland would be vulnerable out wide yesterday after Melbourne centre Dane Nielsen was selected to make his State of Origin debut.
The Maroons coach said while it was a blow to lose Test centres Greg Inglis and Justin Hodges through injury, Nielsen and Cowboy Willie Tonga would fill the void admirably in Queensland's quest for a sixth successive series victory.
“Who said that?” Meninga staunchly said when asked if the Maroons had come back in the field because of their absence.
“It's not about individuals. It's about the team performing. We haven't got GI (Inglis) or Hodgo but we've been dealt those cards and we'll deal with it.
“Dane Nielsen and Willie Tonga will do the best job they possibly can.
“We'd like to have GI and Hodgo and those guys available but Dane's got near 50 games under his belt at NRL level, he understands the culture of Queensland and I've got utmost faith and I know he'll do the job.”
Nielsen was the bolter announced in yesterday's Game I squad along with Broncos flyer Jharal Yow Yeh, who made his Test debut against New Zealand recently.
Tonga and Nielsen both play left centre at club level and it is possible Tonga will shift to the right side for next Wednesday's opening match to pair up with debutant Yow Yeh.
Dragon Darius Boyd would then pair with Nielsen on the left edge.
“He's in great form for the Storm and has been the last couple of years,” Meninga said of Nielsen. “He's a great defensive centre and he'll bring the qualities he displays in Melbourne and I believe he'll enjoy the occasion.”
The Maroons also welcomed back forwards Corey Parker and Jacob Lillyman after lengthy absences from the Origin arena.
Parker's last Origin match was in 2005 while Lillyman has not pulled on the Maroon jersey since Game I in 2008.
Meninga said Parker and Lillyman were rewarded for their outstanding club form.
Rabbitohs wrecking ball Dave Taylor was named 18th man despite playing all of last year's matches.