Billy Slater called out by Corey Parker and Paul Gallen over controversial move for Origin 2

The Maroons coach made the huge call to drop Selwyn Cobbo from the squad.

Billy Slater has been singled out by Origin greats Corey Parker and Paul Gallen amid the surprise omission of Selwyn Cobbo ahead of Game 2. Cobbo was selected as a utility in Game 1 and was brought on after the seventh minute when Reece Walsh was ruled following a concussion due to a high-shot.

Cobbo slotted in the backline, and despite the Blues being a man down for 73 minutes, was fantastic off the bench. He ran for 167 metres, had one linebreak and two linebreak assists. And while the Broncos have been struggling with their NRL form, Cobbo has continued to excel for his club in recent weeks.

Coach Billy Slater (pictured middle) has been singled out by great Corey Parker (pictured right) and Paul Gallen (pictured left) after the surprise admission of Selwyn Cobbo from the Maroons squad. (Getty Images)
Coach Billy Slater (pictured middle) has been singled out by great Corey Parker (pictured right) and Paul Gallen (pictured left) after the surprise admission of Selwyn Cobbo from the Maroons squad. (Getty Images)

Although Slater made the shock call on Monday to snub Cobbo from the Maroons' 17. The NRL legend admitted he opted to give Cobbo a rest after revealing the Broncos back was playing through injury in recent weeks. Although this claim has not sat well with two former players with many fans feeling Cobbo deserved selection as the Maroons look to win their third straight series in Melbourne with a victory next Wednesday.

And Maroons great Parker has questioned his former teammate's call in dropping Cobbo from the team. “It’s going to be a huge story,” Parker said on SEN Radio. “It’s going to be a story that south of the border they will be rubbing their hands together, rubbing their hands together and just trying to concoct whatever they want to concoct. (They will) just tee off on us to be fair, that’s what they’ll do because in NSW everything has happened rosey for them, the three M’s back in the team for them, Mitchell, Murray and also Moses, then you’ve got Dylan Edwards who comes into fullback.”

Queensland has long prided itself on its loyalty policy while taking pot shots at NSW anytime the Blues make wholesale changes. Maroons' history is littered with stories of players coming into the side on the back of average club form and killing it in the Origin arena.

The theory is Queenslanders grow an extra leg when they pull on their state's jersey and past performances will always be recognised and rewarded at the selection table. And after Cobbo's snub, former Blues skipper Gallen has publicly called them out following the Broncos star's outstanding performance off the bench in Game 1.

Paul Gallen during commentary.
Former Blues captain Paul Gallen (pictured) has called out Billy Slater and the Maroons for their selection policy ahead of Game 2.

Kurt Capewell will replace Cobbo for the MCG showdown – just 12 months after the Warriors backrower was dumped for the 2023 series. While there is no doubting Capewell's ability to perform at this level, it's a very big call from Queensland to axe a player who has just helped win you an Origin match.

Slater sounded defensive in explaining the reasons why the explosive utility back was left out of his team as he cited injury. But Gallen, who went up against Queensland on 24 occasions between 2006-16, was having none of it. After interviewing Slater on 100% Footy, Gallen declared: "One thing we did learn is the (Queensland) pick and stick theory's gone.

"That's what they carry on about all the time – pick and stick. That Cobbo thing interests me. I'm not quite sold on that." With a sarcastic raising of the thumbs, Gallen then stared into the cameras and said: "Pick and stick! "Who cares? As long as we win."

Parker admitted Slater was very good at keeping tactics close to his chest during press conferences, but felt the Maroons coach might find it hard to avoid the scrutiny for this decision after Cobbo's Game 1 performance. “It’s definitely not form because he was outstanding in Game I and since then for the Broncos he’s been very good.

“Billy is really methodical in regards to his messaging in his press conferences, which is well within his right to do, keeps it very much between the lines but it’s going to be hard to sidestep this one.” The Broncos have the bye in round 16, which will grant the battling club and Cobbo a week off. Harry Grant will be used as the utility for Game 2 against the Blues. Slater has abandoned the extra back in the reserves and selected three forwards alongside Grant.

Slater has also been fending off other criticism ahead of the must-win clash for New South Wales. Blues coach Maguire appeared to try and ruffle the feathers of the Maroons camp ahead of Game 2 next week having prompted a response from Slater over his comments after the series opener. Maguire warned Queenslanders about living in "glass houses", following their response to NSW centre Joseph Suaalii's send off in Game 1 for the high shot on Walsh.

Slater was interviewed on NRL 360 on Monday night and asked by The Australian's Brent Read for his response to the apparent shot from Maguire. But the Maroons coach gave the veteran league journalist absolutely nothing.

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"Nah. I purposely didn’t comment on that incident if you listen to the press conference... I think you might need to check my comments." When the interview finished, the NRL 360 panel commented on the awkwardness of the exchange between Slater and Read, who insisted that the Maroons coach had made comments widely accepted to be aimed at Maguire.

“I wasn’t having a go at Billy, I was giving him the opportunity to respond to Madge... I assumed he had seen the comments from Madge but obviously he hasn’t seen them," Read said. "I’m sure if he had seen them we would have got a different reaction out of him because Madge made the glass houses comments and everyone assumed they were directed at Billy."

QLD Maroons head coach Billy Slater and NSW Blues head coach Michael Maguire pose with the trophy.
QLD Maroons head coach Billy Slater (pictured left) and NSW Blues head coach Michael Maguire (pictured) have been going back-and-forth ahead of Game 2.