Cooper Cronk has been given the green light for a remarkable State of Origin comeback while Jacob Lillyman will replace Matt Scott up front as Queensland aim to avoid a series clean-sweep.
On Tuesday, the Maroons are set to name Cronk at halfback for game three in a move that will see Daly Cherry-Evans revert to the bench at Suncorp Stadium.
The Melbourne halfback was originally ruled out for the rest of the series after suffering a broken arm early in the series-opening 12-8 defeat.
Cronk has been cleared by the Storm’s medical staff following a faster-than-expected recovery which had him in line to make his NRL return this Sunday against the Bulldogs.
Queensland chairman of selectors Des Morris confirmed earlier on Monday that Cronk would be reunited with Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater in the Maroons spine if fit.
Morris denied it was a gamble to select the 30-year-old after six weeks on the sidelines.
“I wouldn’t think it was that big a risk if that was the case,” he said. “Cooper’s a very structured player and we need to win this game.
“I think we just have to pick the best side that we’ve got at the moment and what works for us.”
Cherry-Evans, who struggled with a knee injury in the lead-up to the 6-4 game two loss, has conceded himself he’s set for a step back, but his utility value will keep him on the bench.
Despite losing their first series in nine years, Queensland’s selectors are continuing to maintain their traditional loyalty.
In-form Broncos prop Josh McGuire has been in the mix to replace enforcer Matt Scott (broken cheekbone), however Warriors front-rower Lillyman is set to start and McGuire included as 18th man.
“(Scott) is the No.1 prop in the game and it’s very hard to replace him, and we felt that in the last game when he got just about 20 minutes,” Morris said. “But Lillyman did a very good job for him.”
The return of Corey Parker from his own facial fracture covers the loss of fellow back-rower Chris McQueen (ankle), while Matt Gillett (shoulder) will keep his spot as one of three forward reserves.
Dave Taylor and Ben Te’o are also expected to keep their bench places despite magnified errors late in game two.
“I don’t think anyone deserves to get dropped to be honest,” Morris said. “Everyone’s contributed, everyone makes a mistake here and there, so I don’t think there’s any reason for us not to be loyal.”
Storm centre Will Chambers is set to be the one Maroons debutant, replacing injured winger Brent Tate.
Likely Queensland team: Billy Slater, Darius Boyd, Greg Inglis, Justin Hodges, Will Chambers, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Jacob Lillyman, Cameron Smith (capt), Nate Myles, Sam Thaiday, Aidan Guerra, Corey Parker. Bench: Daly Cherry-Evans, Ben Te’o, Matt Gillett, Dave Taylor. 18th man – Josh McGuire.