J'maine Hopgood will make his State of Origin debut for Queensland after being in camp last year. Image by Darren England/AAP PHOTOS
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Maroons shakeup as Hopgood gets debut, Su’A recalled

May 27, 2024

Queensland have given Parramatta forward J’maine Hopgood a State of Origin debut, axed wrecking ball David Fifita and recalled North Queensland five-eighth Tom Dearden and St George Illawarra back-rower Jaydn Su’A.

Hopgood, 25, was named on Monday in the 17 for the State of Origin series opener in Sydney on June 5 while Dearden edged out Brisbane’s Ezra Mam to replace injured Cameron Munster at No.6.

Su’A, who last played Origin in 2021, has been rewarded for powerhouse club form while Dearden shone on Origin debut in 2022 and has been backed by Maroons coach Billy Slater to do so again.

“Tommy Dearden has really earned this opportunity. He’s been playing great all year. He’s got great habits in his game and he’s done a great job for Queensland in the past,” Slater said.

Brisbane centre Selwyn Cobbo has been picked on the bench where he can cover all the outside back positions.

“Four of the last six Origin games we’ve had to replace an outside back, so certainly (he provides) a bit of cover, but at the same time Selwyn can play various positions – we might even create one for him, who knows?” Slater said.

 David Fifita has been left out of Queensland’s State of Origin side. Image by Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS 

Fifita, who played all three games of last year’s 2-1 series win, has been left out despite winning the Scott Prince Medal as man of the match in Gold Coast’s 36-34 win over his former club Brisbane on Sunday. 

“Dave created a really high standard for his footy last year, he just hasn’t quite got to that standard this year,” Slater said. 

“I spoke to Dave last night. He’s taken the disappointing news like a true Queenslander.”

Slater said Su’A had “obviously had a really big preseason”.

“You can tell he’s nice and fit and he’s doing some really good things down there at St George,” he said.

Hopgood was named as 19th man in game three of last year’s State of Origin series after a stellar season for the Eels where he played every game.

He’s averaged 122m in attack and 38 tackles per match for the Eels, mostly at lock, in 35 consecutive games since the start of last year in an underperforming side.

Throw in his 21 offloads in 11 games this year and it is clear why he is so highly regarded. 

“He’s much more than a high workrate player,” Slater said.

 Queensland recalled second-rower Jaydn Su’A to the State of Origin side after a three-year absence. Image by Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS 

Slater is set to benefit from Origin stability, with the Maroons to take a far more experienced side into the series opener than NSW.

A day after new coach Michael Maguire opted to make 11 changes for the Blues from Game III last year and name six debutants, there are no such challenges for the Maroons.

Apart from Hopgood, Queensland will take 16 other players with Origin experience to the series opener.

It comes with Queensland in a period of stability not seen since the days when Slater was a mainstay of the Maroons squad.

Queensland were forced to debut only two players in last year’s series, with Reece Walsh getting his maiden jersey in game one and Corey Horsburgh in game three.

Last year’s series marked the least Queensland debutants since 2014, when two also debuted.

QUEENSLAND MAROONS: 1 Reece Walsh, 2 Xavier Coates, 3 Valentine Holmes, 4 Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow , 5 Murray Taulagi, 6 Tom Dearden, 7 Daly Cherry-Evans, 8 Reuben Cotter, 9 Ben Hunt, 10 Lindsay Collins, 11 Jaydn Su’A, 12 Jeremiah Nanai, 13 Patrick Carrigan, 14 Harry Grant, 15 Moeaki Fotuaika, 16 J’maine Hopgood, 17 Selwyn Cobbo, 18 Felise Kaufusi, 19 Brendan Piakura, 20 Ezra Mam.