Injuries threaten to decimate Maroons Origin hopes

Queensland selectors could be missing their captain, superstar fullback and two best halfbacks for the second State of Origin as a raft of injuries puts their hopes of saving the series in extreme danger.

The Maroons will travel to Sydney in three weeks to try and take it to a decider but injuries to players in key positions could make it a mountainous task.

One of the most physically demanding Origin games in history left both dressing rooms littered with casualties, with NSW also destined to notch up sizeable medical costs as they try and patch up the damage to their squad.

But Queensland could be forced to find patchwork solutions in the most influential spots on the park, with Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Daly Cherry-Evans all in significant doubt for the return bout.

Smith has a high ankle sprain and will miss one-two weeks of football for Melbourne, which would theoretically put him in the selection frame. But it is a type of injury that can prove troublesome and Jake Friend could be ready for his first Origin start.

Slater has an AC joint injury and stands to miss up to three weeks, which would rule him out, while Cherry-Evans was having scans on his knee on Thursday to determine the extent of the damage he suffered.

Fairfax understands the Maroons aren’t confident about the prognosis on the Manly halfback, who played 70 minutes on Wednesday night after Cooper Cronk broke his arm, ruling him out for the series.

It all makes for a fascinating puzzle for Des Morris, Mal Meninga and the Queensland selection staff. Friend, in camp for game one, would be a walk up for Smith but that’s about as straightforward as it gets.

Ben Hunt could be in line for a dramatic rise from the Broncos to Origin if Cherry-Evans fails to recover, or Johnathan Thurston could be moved to halfback, Greg Inglis to five-eighth and Canberra's Anthony Milford handed a debut at fullback.

There’s also room to move if the Maroons want experience in such a big game, with a safer play shifting Darius Boyd to fullback, Will Chambers to the centres and search for a new winger, with Dane Gagai a potential candidate.

Sam Thaiday would almost certainly return to the starting side if fit, prompting Matt Gillett to slide back to the bench. Josh Papalii may struggle to hold his spot.

This story Injuries threaten to decimate Maroons Origin hopes first appeared on WA Today.