Darren Lockyer speaks out on Dane Gagai's State of Origin conundrum

Billy Slater has a huge call ahead of the State of Origin series.

Queensland selector Darren Lockyer during broadcast and Dane Gagai during State of Origin.
Queensland selector Darren Lockyer (pictured left) remained tight-lipped over Maroons mainstay Dane Gagai's selection in the squad with the emergence of Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow. (Getty Images)

Queensland selector Darren Lockyer has remained coy on a potential surprise pick with Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow pushing for a centre spot over Maroons mainstay Dane Gagai. Tabuai-Fidow, affectionately known as the Hammer, has been in great form for the Dolphins and has certainly put his hand up for an Origin recall for the first time since 2021.

However, Gagai has been in strong form in 2023 and has never let his state down when pulling on the Maroons jumper. The 32-year-old centre has played 21 games for Queensland and hasn't missed a match since his Game III debut in 2015.

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Queensland have won five of the eighth series he has been involved in since his debut. He is also third on the list of all-time try scorers for the state, behind Darius Boyd and Greg Inglis.

Gagai also won the Wally Lewis medal for player of the series in 2017. While Tabuai-Fidow has scored 10 tries in 10 games this year as he puts his hand up for an Origin recall.

Queensland legend Wally Lewis hinted on QLDER that Gagai may have enough credits in the bank after so many stellar performances for the Maroons to see himself selected again by Billy Slater. And Maroons selector Lockyer remained coy about the position debate leading into the announcement of the squad and said it was a 'balancing act'.

"You've got players that are at the back end of their career, they've done a hell of a lot for the team and I guess it's just a judgment call from not just the selectors, but the coach is probably the primary person to make that judgment call," Lockyer said on the Wide World of Sports.

"Can they still perform and do their job at that level? That's the question you've got to ask. Sometimes it's not about picking the team and potentially leaving someone out; you have a conversation with them before that even happens."

Billy Slater looks on during broadcast.
Billy Slater (pictured) has remained tight-lipped on his Maroons selection for State of Origin. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Blues face five-eighth dilemma in State of Origin

If Tabuai-Fidow is picked over Gagai, it will go against the Maroons mantra of loyalty. The other option would be a wing spot or the other centre position. This would see one of Valentine Holmes, Selwyn Cobbo, Xavier Coates or Corey Oates not picked.

One of the Blues' biggest conundrums is at five-eighth. Blues coach Brad Fittler is under pressure to pick Sharks star and Dally M winner Nicho Hynes as the halves option with Nathan Cleary.

This would mean dropping incumbent Jarome Luai who shares a partnership with Cleary at club level. Fittler also remained coy when talking about Hynes' form the other week.

"There's still three weeks and he's got a couple of games to go. Not only has he still got to keep playing well, stay injury-free," Fittler said.

"There are couple of other players there doing a good job as well. But just watching him is enjoyable, watching what he does on the field and off the field. He's a great role model for the game."

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