Maroons jersey up for grabs in Arrow clash with Papalii
Gold Coast forward Jai Arrow can go a long way towards securing his first Queensland jersey if he dominates his showdown with Josh Papalii in Canberra on Saturday.
With Brisbane lock Josh McGuire racing the clock to be fit for the opening match of the Holden State of Origin series in Melbourne on June 6, Maroons chairman of selectors Gene Miles told NRL.com the selectors would be watching the clash intently.
Papalii has represented Queensland nine times but after a slow start to the season, Ricky Stuart put a rocket under the 25-year-old forward when he was dropped for the round-five clash with Canterbury.
He returned the following week and his form has improved, culminating in a dominant display in last week’s win over North Queensland.
Arrow, 21, has flown into Queensland contention on the back of eight superb games for the Titans.
Miles said he expected McGuire would do everything in his power to be fit, but Papalii or Arrow could be "a straight swap".
"This weekend’s clash could determine that so we’ll be watching that closely," Miles told NRL.com
"Josh Papalii came back not as fit as his coach would have liked after the World Cup and probably didn't have the biggest pre-season, but he was good last week and played big minutes.
"Every time we have given Josh an opportunity at that Origin level he has never let us down. He has always delivered for us.
"Jai Arrow has been doing all the tough stuff in the middle for the Titans, whether it be tackling or hitting the ball up. He has all the qualities of a rep player and is doing all the things you want from a middle forward.
"Either one of those two could be a straight swap for McGuire and the other could get a bench spot because you've got to have three big boppers on the bench these days particularly at Origin level."
Maroons legend Petero Civoniceva was at Cbus Super Stadium last Saturday and was impressed with Arrow's efforts in the 10-9 loss to Cronulla.
"Papalii has been there before but with Origin selection, it is never a given," Civoniceva told NRL.com.
"It can be deflating when you get relegated to reserve grade but you can use that as motivation to respond, and Josh has done that. For Josh to lead the Canberra pack the way he did against North Queensland, one of the game’s better packs, says a lot about his desire to hopefully wear a Maroons jersey.
"It was a huge loss to the Broncos when Jai went to the Titans but he has taken his opportunity and become a leader down there at such a young age. I really admire his work rate, and his overall work ethic wouldn’t be amiss in State of Origin."
Witness Australia's greatest sporting rivalry when Origin comes to the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday, June 6. Tickets available at NRL.com/tickets.