League: Queensland to gamble on Slater

Maroons fullback cleared to play but doubts linger over fitness of halfback Cherry-Evans and centre Inglis.

Queensland confirmed Billy Slater would play at fullback in tomorrow's game. Photo / Getty Images
Queensland confirmed Billy Slater would play at fullback in tomorrow's game. Photo / Getty Images

Billy Slater has officially been cleared to play in league's State of Origin II in Sydney but Daly Cherry-Evans and Greg Inglis will be given until the last minute in what Queensland captain Cameron Smith admits is a big gamble.

The Maroons confirmed yesterday Slater would play at fullback in tomorrow night's game at ANZ Stadium at Homebush after overcoming a shoulder complaint.

But halfback Cherry-Evans (knee) and barnstorming centre Inglis (ankle) would be given until game day to prove their fitness.

"Queensland coach Mal Meninga has not set a deadline and will give the players up until kick off to prove their fitness," a Maroons statement said.

Manly playmaker Cherry-Evans appears the biggest worry for Queensland.

He has not trained at halfback once with the Maroons.

Cherry-Evans' understudy Ben Hunt - who has played just 13 games as Broncos No7 - is in line to make his Origin debut in a game Queensland must win to keep their dream of nine straight series wins alive.

"It is a gamble but Daly has been present at all of our sessions, he's been watching on," Smith said of their last-minute fitness call.

"It's pretty late but that's the situation we are in. No one is panicking. Everyone is pretty relaxed about it."

Smith backed his injured stars to make the right call, just like backrower Sam Thaiday who pulled out of game one with a calf complaint.

"Mal has been really good with guys carrying injuries," Smith said.

"It has been left up to the player to make the decision. Ultimately, they know if they will right to play.

"We saw in game one Sammy Thaiday withdrew knowing he would not be able to fulfil his role."

Smith said Hunt - who had only stepped up as Broncos No7 this year after acting as a bench utility - was capable of filling Cherry-Evans' shoes if needed.

Hunt has spent the last week training at halfback at Queensland's Gold Coast camp with Cherry-Evans either looking on while icing his knee or being restricted to running drills.

"We would like to see DCE there but if he's not available I am sure Ben will do a good job for us," Smith said.

Meanwhile, South Sydney enforcer Sam Burgess is confident he's controlling his temper better as he zeroes in on ending the Rabbitohs' five-decade long premiership drought in his final NRL season.

Burgess was targeted early in the season by opposition sides who succeeded in unsettling the England international, paving the way to wins over Souths.

Manly prop Jason King and Wests Tigers representative front-rower Aaron Woods were two players who managed to get under Burgess' skin with aggressive tactics.

Since then the Souths forward has managed to keep his emotions in check.

And the Rabbitohs have won six of their last seven games to climb to third on the NRL ladder, with Burgess one of the form players of the competition.

"You are always going to have your critics, I don't really read in to too much of what is said, me and my teammates know what sort of a person and player I am," Burgess said.


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