Billy Slater in eye-opening admission about David Fifita as QLD rocked by blow for Origin 3

Slater is under pressure to recall David Fifita for the State of Origin decider.

Billy Slater has heaped praise on David Fifita as pressure mounts on the Queensland coach to rush the destructive back rower into the side for the State of Origin decider at Suncorp Stadium on July 17. The omission of Fifita from the Maroons' 20-man squad for Game 1 was a major shock to many as the powerhouse Titans forward has been one of the standout edge forwards in 2024 and also played in all three games of last year's series.

Fifita was overlooked for the series opener in favour of Jeremiah Nanai and Jaydn Su'a in the second row. Explaining the decision to leave him out for Game 1 Slater said: "I've got no doubt that Dave will get back to the footy he played last year, and I'm sure he will wear a Maroons jersey in the future again. Dave created a really high standard for his footy last year. He just hasn’t quite got to that standard this year."

Pictured Billy Slater left and David Fifita right
Billy Slater has heaped praise on David Fifita as pressure mounts to recall him for the State of Origin decider. Image: Getty

And after a comfortable Game 1 victory, the Titans star didn't earn a recall for Game 2. But after the Maroons' crushing defeat in Game 2, it was made abundantly clear that Slater must make some drastic changes ahead of the series decider.

Following the 38-18 thrashing in Game 2, the Maroons coach has seemingly changed his tune, applauding the "great footy" the back-rower has been playing of late as he mulls over his team selection for the series decider. “David Fifita has been in the conversation for every Origin game (including) the first one,’’ Slater said on Channel 9.

"He had a bit of a chequered start to the season with a pec (pectoral muscle tear in December). He has been playing some great footy and those conversations will happen next Sunday."

In Game 2, Queensland were out-muscled and their forward pack dominated, most notably when the game was on the line in the first half. As a whole, the Maroons lacked punch and intensity which showcased the need for some reinforcements.

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 22: David Fifita of the Titans looks on during the round 16 NRL match between Gold Coast Titans and New Zealand Warriors at Cbus Super Stadium, on June 22, 2024, in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
Fifita was overlooked for Games 1 and 2 in favour of Jeremiah Nanai and Jaydn Su'a.

Former State of Origin forward Scott Sattler believes Fifita needs to be called in for the Maroons in Game 3. “We are lacking that real size, aggression and punch without Tom Flegler and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui so I’m going to be one of many that throw it up there, and Billy knows better than all of us, but I think the size, speed and potential X-factor of David Fifita has got to be taken into consideration for game three,’’ Sattler told SEN.

“I have never seen Queensland bullied and intimidated as much as we were that first half. No excuses, we came out of the blocks OK but just sheer size dominated us. Angus Crichton just bullied everybody, Val Holmes got rag-dolled all night and Reece Walsh was like a deer in headlights at times.

“There is a lot that needs to be discussed around the selection table, not so much if there are any changes but I think the bench really needs to be looked at in some way, maybe one or two there ... the big concern for Billy is how we got bullied and couldn’t match the intensity.”

One thing Slater will have to do ahead of Game 3 is find a new winger after scans confirmed Xavier Coates tore his right hamstring in Melbourne's win over Canberra. The Storm and Maroons winger needed help walking up the tunnel after re-injuring his hamstring - an issue that kept him out of action earlier this year.

The Melbourne flyer suffered the injury as he unsuccessfully attempted to dive on the ball for a try in the second half of Saturday night's 16-6 win. And scans on Sunday confirmed a low-grade tear in Coates' right hamstring that will keep him out for between six and eight weeks.

Selwyn Cobbo is the obvious replacement after the Brisbane flyer was controversially left out of Game 2. Cobbo was reportedly rested to deal with a niggle, with replacement utility Kurt Capewell struggling to make an impact. And Brisbane coach Kevin Walters believes the rest has him primed for a big Game 3 on the win in place of Coates.

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"I think he’d be at the forefront of Billy’s mind, that’s for sure. He had another strong game for us,’’ Walters told The Courier-Mail. "So it just goes to show the toll that Origin takes on young players. He was a different player for us last night so it was good to see.

"He got some time away from the game. He went back to Cherbourg and his family. That’s normally very invigorating for players, particularly Selwyn with time with his family. That’s all he needed. Just a bit of a break. I’m sure if he’s called upon he’d love to play for Queensland, but we’ve got next week against the Panthers and he’s got to get his mind around that short turnaround for us."

with AAP