No room for Billy Slater in Maroons, says Justin Hodges
SORRY Billy, but there's no room for you in the Queensland Origin side this year.
That's the message from Billy Slater's ex-Maroons teammate Justin Hodges, who believes the Melbourne Storm star simply cannot unseat incumbent fullback Darius Boyd.
Slater is six games into his return to the NRL after almost two full seasons out of the game due to recurring shoulder issues.
The 33-year-old has shown glimpses of his best, prompting talk of a representative recall.
Australia coach Mal Meninga overlooked Slater for the Anzac Test, opting to stay loyal to Boyd, and Hodges reckons Queensland mentor Kevin Walters should do the same.
"Billy's a fantastic player. When he's at his best there's no better footballer," Hodges told Queenslanders Only.
"But you've got to go back to last year. The Queensland side was very dominant. Darius Boyd played his best series and Corey Oates was outstanding on the wing."
Hodges, who played 24 Origins for Queensland, the majority alongside Slater, said it would be unfair to shift Boyd, who has proved himself in the No.1 jersey since taking it over last year.
"For a guy like Billy, you'd love to have him in the side but at the moment, you don't change game one's side from last year's side," he said.
"You have Corey Oates coming out of the back doing that tough carry, Darius Boyd in defence in the line organising the attack. You go with what you know first.
"It's a big call, but you've got to reward those guys for what they did last year.
"Even though Billy Slater's a true champion, Darius did nothing wrong."
Another player Meninga stuck with was Cronulla flyer Valentine Holmes, who will get another chance in the green and gold after a stellar Four Nations campaign last year.
While the talented youngster appears to have locked down a spot in the national side for now, it's a different story at state level.
"You're not going to move (Dane) Gagai and you're not going to move Corey Oates," Hodges said.
"Valentine Holmes is the best for the Kangaroos at the moment because he earned that last year.
"Until he gets his spot in Queensland and shows what he can do in an Origin arena he hasn't earned that spot yet, so you give it to the guys who have been there."