Darren Lockyer goes public with real reason for David Fifita's axing from Queensland Origin team

The Maroons selector has spilled the beans on the situation ahead of State of Origin 3.

Queensland selector Darren Lockyer has revealed David Fifita's continued State of Origin snub is all down to his inability to aim up when under fatigue. Maroons coach Billy Slater has refused to pick the Gold Coast wrecking ball all series, even after their forward pack was dominated in Game 2.

Many expected Fifita to earn a recall for the series decider at Suncorp Stadium next Wednesday night, but Slater instead opted to promote Kurt Capewell to the starting side and keep Felise Kaufusi in his 17. Fifita played all three games in Queensland's series victory last year, but hasn't even been picked in any of Slater's 20-man squads in 2024.

Darren Lockyer, David Fifita and Billy Slater.
Darren Lockyer has revealed the real reason Billy Slater refuses to pick David Fifita. Image: Getty

Rumours have been circulating that Fifita's snub might be down to his decision to backflip on joining the Sydney Roosters, while others have suggested Slater wants players who get through more work rather than popping up when they feel like it. And discussing the situation on Wednesday, Lockyer revealed it's the latter.

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Speaking on the 'QLDER' podcast, Lockyer revealed the Maroons hierarchy have concerns that Fifita goes missing when he's fatigued or under pressure. "Dave has obviously found some form in the last few weeks and that's with the Titans going a bit better," Lockyer said.

"Billy watches a lot of football, he would have studied Dave over the last three weeks. I think the biggest thing for Dave to work on is that when he gets fatigued or tired, that's when the habits of an Origin player are important.

"That's just one part of Dave's game that he can be better at and if he takes that on board and takes the disappointment and knows that there are still little things he needs to get better ... it's up to him now."

David Fifita, pictured here in State of Origin in 2023.
David Fifita played all three games for Queensland in 2023. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

On the same podcast, Queensland legend Wally Lewis expressed concerns that Slater's side are a bit small - especially in the forwards. Second-rowers Capewell and Jeremiah Nanai aren't known for dominating opposition packs, while Jaydn Sua was also dumped for Game 3 after playing the first two games of the series.

Slater opted to pick a hooker (Harry Grant) and utility (Kalyn Ponga) on the bench, meaning Kaufusi and Mo Fotuaika are the only genuine forwards on the interchange. "We're lacking a bit of size," Lewis said. "It will be quite interesting to see how the other players respond.

"I'm sure Billy will be talking to the players and just saying to them that he's shown faith in them and it's about time they respond. They have another chance now to remind the coach that he made the right decision."

The fact Slater has gone with Grant and Ponga on the bench might have played into Fifita's snubbing. The Maroons coach will likely call on Capewell and Nanai to play 80 minutes - something he probably didn't want to do with Fifita.

"A lot of the things that stand out for David Fifita's game is his barnstorming runs and the tackle breaks," Queensland great Cameron Smith said on Tuesday. "But when you are a coach of the Queensland Origin side, you look further past all those good runs and the things that make the highlight reel.

"It's a lot of stuff that happens away from the ball. Obviously Billy feels as though Kurt Capewell is a much better option to play in that back-row role. A guy that I think you can definitely rely on to make those plays away from the football that he needs him to do. Particularly at that level."