Gavin Cooper has made the maroons team for Origin I.
Gavin Cooper has made the maroons team for Origin I.

Cowboys trio named for Maroons

COWBOYS trio Gavin Cooper, Michael Morgan and Coen Hess have retained their spots in the Queensland team for the State of Origin season opener at Melbourne on June 6.

But veteran prop Matt Scott has paid the price for North Queensland's horror first half of the season by being left out of coach Kevin Walters' team named this morning.

Despite the Cowboys winning just three of 12 games, Walters has stuck solid with the incumbent North Queensland stars, who will be unavailable for Thursday's crunch game at Manly.

Hess and Morgan have both been named on the bench while Cooper will start in the back row.

Scott and Broncos captain Darius Boyd are the biggest omissions from the Maroons team as Queensland looks to Generation Next following the retirements of superstars Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston.

Scott would have needed to beat a shoulder charge ban he copped for a hit on Melbourne centre Young Tonumaipea in Friday's 7-6 home loss to take his place if named.

The Cowboys will make a decision by noon today on whether they will contest the charge, or accept a one match ban.

Maroons coach Kevin Walters said at this morning's team announcement that ringing Scott yesterday to inform him he'd been left out was tough.

"It's very difficult, Scotty's been a great player for 22 appearances," Walters said.

"That's the hardest part of my job is ringing those players and letting them know they're not in the team.

"It was a pretty ordinary afternoon for some of those guys. Certainly with Scotty he's been playing some good football for the Cowboys, but we thought it was in the best interests of the team for game one to go without him.

"Scotty took it like a man."

Walters insisted he's not worried about the form of the Cowboys incumbents given their worrying slump.

"I'm not concerned at all about those three guys," Walters said.

"If you have a look at their individual performance I think Morgan has been much better the last couple of weeks (since being shifted to fullback) and Gavin Cooper is always a very steady player.

"Coen Hess has been playing 80 minutes on the edge but we're going to use him in a different way. Similar to what we did last year (through the middle) and he was very effective."

Walters stuck solid with a number of veterans in game one last year, including star fullback Billy Slater which backfired when the Blues posted a dominant victory.

The Maroons recovered to win the series after fresh blood was ushered in for the final two games.

Townsville product Valentine Holmes, who scored a hat-trick in Origin III last year, retained his spot after bagging three tries in Cronulla's win over Newcastle yesterday.

Although he is only a second string goalkicker at the Sharks, Holmes may be handed the kicking duties with Thurston and Smith out.

"I am concerned but Valentine Holmes has kicked at some stages this year, and Ben Hunt as well," Walters said.

"My dad always said you have to score tries first before you worry about kicking goals."

As expected Greg Inglis was named as Smith's replacement as captain.

"I think he's ready for the challenges the job demands," Walters said.

"He'll be a different captain to Cameron Smith and he missed all of last year's series though injury, but you can see with his form for South Sydney he's ready for the challenge."

Broncos rake Andrew McCullough won the hooker role, while young forwards Felise Kaufusi and Jai Arrow will make their debuts.

Queensland team: 1 Billy Slater, 2 Valentine Holmes, 3 Greg Inglis (c), 4 Will Chambers, 5 Dane Gagai, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Ben Hunt, 8 Dylan Napa, 9 Andrew McCullough, 10 Jarrad Wallace, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Felise Kaufusi, 13 Josh McGuire, 14 Michael Morgan, 15 Josh Papalii, 16 Coen Hess, 17 Jai Arrow.