Selectors have botched this Maroons team
MAROONS hierarchy claim to have learnt some harsh lessons from their MCG mauling in Origin I.
The team they picked for the return bout at ANZ Stadium suggests otherwise.
The sight of injured chief enforcer Dylan Napa hobbling into Camp Maroon is tangible evidence of the risky planning and lack of proactive management that threatens Queensland's record-breaking stranglehold on Origin supremacy.
The Maroons have botched the composition of their team on several fronts for Origin II. The potential price to pay is as crushingly costly as it gets - a loss this Sunday night will deliver the coup de grace to the most magnificent dynasty we have seen in Origin history.
If it happens, Queensland will rue playing a part in their own demise.
On Monday evening, Napa had his injured ankle encased in a moon boot. In four days' time - provided he gets the green light from doctors - Napa will be asked to somehow spearhead Queensland's pack against the NSW monsters that won the midfield in Game One.
If Napa couldn't win a turf war at the MCG fully fit, how on earth will he dominate the Blues' big boppers with a dodgy ankle?
Surely, no Maroons medico can confidently proclaim that Napa will be 100 per cent fit for Origin II, nor approach something resembling optimum fitness.
If that is the case, why would Queensland coach Kevin Walters persist with more heartache, uncertainty and the type of disrupted training sessions that turned their Origin I build-up into an episode of General Hospital.
There is a sage saying in business that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
By repeatedly rolling the dice on injured players, making preparations for the code's toughest contest more turbulent and stressful than they need to be, the Maroons are at risk of failing dismally.
History can be a powerful barometer and the Maroons should heed the painful lessons of 2014, the only time in the past 12 years Queensland has lost an Origin series.
In that campaign, the Maroons dithered over the fitness of Daly Cherry-Evans.
In the absence of the injured Cooper Cronk, the Manly playmaker was set to make his starting debut at halfback and in his understandable desperation to wear the No.7 jumper, DCE insisted he could overcome a knee injury.
The signs at training suggested otherwise. Cherry-Evans had heavy strapping and a noticeable limp. By game night, Cherry-Evans never looked totally pain free as he presided over a 6-4 loss at ANZ Stadium, a defeat that gave NSW an unassailable 2-0 lead.
The gamble failed. The Maroons had to cop their medicine.
There is no question NSW were the better side a fortnight ago in Melbourne but it could be argued the seeds for victory were sown in the mind, in the days leading-up to the 22-12 triumph.
The Blues coasted through a smooth build-up. The Maroons had more drama than Melrose Place. On day one of camp, four players - Billy Slater, Josh McGuire, Michael Morgan and Ben Hunt - sat out training due to injuries. When Slater withdrew, Kalyn Ponga and Anthony Milford were rushed into Melbourne 48 hours before kick-off.
On Wednesday, we will have clarity on Slater (hamstring) and Napa, but even if the latter is passed fit, Maroons selectors have failed to make courageous calls on their pack.
Queensland's engine-room needs mobility and Josh McGuire's experience and lateral speed would have better contained pacey NSW hooker Damien Cook. Moving McGuire to prop would have allowed Jai Arrow to flourish as a workhorse in the lock position and Jarrod Wallace to seek atonement with reduced pressure on the bench.
Kalyn Ponga is a superb choice as the No.14 utility and the Maroons should have blooded another debutant beside him in Broncos prop Joe Ofahengaue.
At 114kg, he is a big body and his 157 metres last week against Cronulla's hardheads Paul Gallen and Andrew Fifita was the final evidence he is ready for Origin.
Ultimately, Walters may conjure yet another famous come-from-behind series win, but you can only play with fire for so long before you get burnt.