Munster fitness key concern for Maroons

·3-min read

While Melbourne have declared Cameron Munster good to go, Newcastle coach Adam O'Brien has cast serious doubt over the availability of Kalyn Ponga for the State of Origin series opener.

The Storm on Sunday gave star five-eighth Munster the green light despite not playing since round nine due a foot injury, however O'Brien was less optimistic about Ponga being fit after he sat out their win over Manly with a groin issue.

O'Brien was doubtful whether Ponga, who will play five-eighth if Munster is ruled out, could suit up for the June 9 match, saying he risked serious injury if he wasn't fully recovered.

"With that injury you can't get them wrong; because it is tendon it can turn into a really serious injury," O'Brien said.

"That's why I pulled him out of today - it was a risk of damaging it."

O'Brien said the Knights medical staff were liaising with their Queensland counterparts and he backed Ponga to make the right call.

"He is a professional and aware of where he's at so between them they will get it sorted one way or another.

"He himself knows if he is sore at the back end of next week he is not going to risk it."

Munster will join the Maroons camp on Monday with medical staff to assess his injury before making a final decision on the 2020 Wally Lewis medallist.

Former star and selector Billy Slater said Munster's value to the team justified the decision to give him every chance to prove his fitness.

"He's got to tick a few more boxes to be available for Queensland," Slater told the Nine Network.

"I believe Melbourne have allowed him to go into camp and give himself a chance to tick those boxes.

"He's such an integral part of the Queensland Origin team these days, we saw how influential he was last year, and I think Queensland will give him every chance to get right for that game one."

Gold Coast half AJ Brimson suffered bone bruising to his knee in their loss to Cronulla and while he talked up his fitness he looked very ginger and was unable to hit top speed.

Corey Norman or Ben Hunt loom as potential options should both Munster and Ponga be unavailable.

"That's the problem that we've got at the moment, we don't know who's available and who's gonna be fit enough to play in what is it about 10 days time," Slater said.

Slater said the news was more positive on Harry Grant's hamstring injury, despite the Storm hooker missing Thursday's match against Brisbane.

Grant is expected to be picked in the No.9 jersey despite the form of Parramatta's Reed Mahoney.

Five-eighth is far from Green and the rest of the Queensland selector's issues with Josh Papalii and Josh McGuire both suspended and Lindsay Collins (knee) injured.

Backrower Felise Kaufusi is facing a one-game ban after being charged with tripping Brisbane's Jake Turpin and can only play if he successfully challenges at the judiciary.

It leaves Green light on back row options with South Sydney's Jaydn Su'a plying his trade in reserve grade after being axed by the Rabbitohs, although Gold Coast enforcer David Fifita will return after missing last year's series with an ankle injury.

Titans teammate Moeaki Fotuaika should feature while Storm front-rower Christian Welch insists he's good to go despite a knee complaint.

POSSIBLE QUEENSLAND TEAM:

Kalyn Ponga, Valentine Holmes, Dane Gagai, Kurt Capewell, Xavier Coates, Cameron Munster, Daly Cherry-Evans (capt), Christian Welch, Harry Grant, Jai Arrow, Felise Kaufusi, David Fifita, Tino Fa'asuamaleaui. Interchange: AJ Brimson, Coen Hess, Moeaki Fotuaika, Reed Mahoney.

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