Tue June 26, 2012 6:11pm
MAL Meninga today opined that next week's series decider was not the time to introduce exciting Canterbury fullback Ben Barba to State of Origin football.
Meninga named a 20-man squad at the team’s Coolum Resort training base but the dynamic Barba was not among them. He had come into consideration as a possible replacement for Billy Slater, who although named is battling a knee injury to play at Suncorp Stadium next Wednesday.
Barba’s sensational 70-metre run to put Josh Morris over for the last Bulldogs try in their win over competition NRL leaders, Melbourne, in Mackay last Sunday raised hopes that the 23-year-old might be given his first Maroons jersey.
“Benny was part of our squad in Game II and has had a fantastic year so far,” Meninga explained. “He was exceptional on the weekend but we felt experience was the key here – it’s a decider; it’s at Suncorp Stadium. So it’s a huge event. We decided to go with experience.”
The only new name to the squad was Brisbane back-rower Ben Te’o. He is mainly there to cover for Dave Taylor if prop Matt Scott decides to remain with his family in the central Queensland town of Ifracombe, following the death of his mother Dianne last week from cancer. Her funeral is tomorrow.
Another positional change would need to be made for Slater if he is unable to prove to Meninga that he is fit enough for next Wednesday’s match against NSW.
That would mean Matt Bowen (North Queensland) or Greg Inglis (Souths) would fill the No.1 jersey. Storm centre Dane Nielsen, who played last year due to injuries to Inglis and Justin Hodges, is on standby in Coolum for both players – Inglis if he has to move to fullback or Hodges is his rib cartilage injury flares up.