League: Meninga confident with 'settled unit'

Mal Meninga. Photo / Getty Images.
Mal Meninga. Photo / Getty Images.

Queensland State of Origin coach Mal Meninga said the Maroons No.7 jumper was Cooper Cronk's to lose in a statement highlighting the gulf between the interstate combatants.

While NSW coach Ricky Stuart tussles with a host of selection headaches before the series-opener on May 23, Meninga could seemingly name his squad now - barring the obvious potential for injuries.

"It's a fairly settled unit. We don't expect too many changes to be honest," Meninga said, with Cronk to come off the bench and into the halves alongside Johnathan Thurston as the Maroons begin the post-Darren Lockyer era.

"We all know that Cooper will get first crack coming into the Maroons side - there won't be too many surprises coming out of our camp."

While the appointment still had to be ratified by the Queensland board, Meninga said Cameron Smith would take over as captain from Lockyer.

But even there, the Maroons aren't short of candidates, with Thurston, Matt Scott, Petero Civoniceva and Sam Thaiday all current or former club captains.

"You assume he's going to be the captain because he's been there and done it before," Meninga said.

"He's very important - the No.9 touches the footy the most in the game so he's an important ingredient to our footy side.

"He'll be instrumental in a lot of the decision making."

Stuart has no such luxury, with skipper Paul Gallen the only player guaranteed to be in the Blues starting line-up at Etihad Stadium.

"There are some contentious positions but I don't want to go into that yet," Stuart said.

"It's too early in the season.

"There's some people that I'm really happy with but I don't want to be creating speculation or pinpointing any individual.

"They've got a club job to do and, as long as those individuals that are in the mix - and they know who they are - keep their form consistent, that's what you've got to have."

-AAP

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