League: Gavin Cooper picked for Queensland Origin debut

Cowboys veteran Gavin Cooper will make his State of Origin debut for Queensland after being named for game three in place of injured Josh Papalii. Photo / Getty Images.
Cowboys veteran Gavin Cooper will make his State of Origin debut for Queensland after being named for game three in place of injured Josh Papalii. Photo / Getty Images.

Queensland coach Kevin Walters hopes to unleash an all-forwards bench in a bid to clinch a rare State of Origin series whitewash.

Veteran prop Nate Myles has been named to make his return from a knee injury, replacing injured bench utility Michael Morgan (knee) for July 13's Origin III in Sydney.

North Queensland backrower Gavin Cooper will make his long-awaited Origin debut for the Maroons, slotting in for bench forward Josh Papalii (knee, shoulder).

Walters said he would mull over naming shadow players this week, with Canterbury's Moses Mbye and Manly's Daly Cherry-Evans the leading candidates.

But Walters said the gameplan was to load up on an all-forwards bench at ANZ Stadium in a bid to seal a fifth series sweep for Queensland.

"I don't think it is a risk, particularly in Sydney," Walters said. "NSW have got a dominant side and try to play through the middle.

"To combat that we have to make sure we are strong through there."

Walters said Maroons big men Aidan Guerra, Corey Parker and Josh McGuire provided ample utility value if they opted for an all-forwards bench.

Myles missed Queensland's series-clinching 26-16 Origin II win due to the knee injury. Walters said the 30-Origin veteran would be given every chance to prove his fitness but backed him to run out on July 13.

"If we thought it was a risk we wouldn't have picked him," Walters said. "We have a lot of trust in Nate's honesty.

"If he says he can play, he will be a great inclusion. Given his expertise and experience at that level I don't think Nate's foolish enough to run out there if he's not fit."

Myles may yet start, shifting Origin II frontrower McGuire to the bench.

Cooper is expected to come off the bench after replacing Canberra wrecking ball Papalii.

Walters said he had to trust Canberra's assessment of Papalii as being unfit for selection.

"Papalii was a sad one. Raiders medical staff said it will be a couple of weeks before he plays again so we couldn't push that," he said.

Cooper's inclusion comes after several years spent either as a back-up or 18th man to the Maroons.

"It goes to show about perseverance and sticking to your trade and doing a good job," Walters said. "His words were 'I thought that ship had sailed'."

Walters dismissed talk of Origin III being a dead rubber. "Every game counts," he said.

Walters has the chance to mark his first year at the Queensland helm with a clean sweep after the Maroons sealed their 10th Origin series win in 11 years last month.

"Queensland teams have only done it four times in 36 years," Walters said. "The last time this team did it was 2010.

"That's a long time in rugby league so this is a good opportunity for them."

Game three will mark retiring Brisbane skipper Parker's final game for Queensland.

Queensland: Cameron Smith (capt), Darius Boyd, Gavin Cooper, Cooper Cronk, Dane Gagai, Matt Gillett, Aidan Guerra, Greg Inglis, Jacob Lillyman, Josh McGuire, Nate Myles, Corey Oates, Justin O'Neill, Corey Parker, Matt Scott, Sam Thaiday, Johnathan Thurston.

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