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McQueen ready to fill big Origin shoes

Receiving the No.18 Queensland jersey usually means the player has been earmarked for the future by Maroons coach Mal Meninga.
McQueen ready to fill big Origin shoes
by AAP

By Laine Clark

GOLD COAST, May 26 AAP - Receiving the No.18 Queensland jersey usually means the player has been earmarked for the future by Maroons coach Mal Meninga.

But South Sydney backrower Chris McQueen will wear it in what looms as an emotional nod to the past in Wednesday night's State of Origin opening game in Brisbane.

McQueen has not been able to crack the Rabbitohs' starting side this NRL season.

But loyalty has ensured incumbent McQueen will not only start for Queensland as they launch their quest for nine straight series wins but attempt to fill some very big shoes indeed.

McQueen will don the No.18 jersey after number 11 was retired for the Origin opener to honour the late Arthur Beetson in what will be the interstate series' 100th game.

"I never got the honour to meet the man," McQueen said of Queensland's inaugural Origin captain who died of a heart attack in late 2011.

"But to be able to wear the No.18 jersey in honour of him, I feel very proud."

And, most likely, fortunate.

Selectors have prided themselves on showing faith in incumbents during Queensland's remarkable eight straight series wins.

But Meninga admitted they had to show more loyalty than usual to give McQueen a starting berth in the historic clash.

"Chris is not starting with Souths, and we have always had a philosophy in choosing the team based around starting players," Meninga told fogs.com.au.

"But we talk to the clubs and the coaches about the players, and where they are at physically, and we are comfortable with where he is at.

"Certainly, Chris and Josh Papalii were the ones most under the pump in the final NRL round before the team was named but we have no concerns about them being ready for the job Queensland needs them to do.

"Both of these guys got an opportunity last year and they didn't let the team down, so we can't question their ability to play at Origin level.

"We made some decisions last year about our younger players, and there is no point now changing those decisions - we have to believe in what we're doing."

McQueen said his pre-Origin selection nerves were eased after Meninga hosted a recent night for NSW-based Queensland hopefuls in Sydney.

"We had a dinner in Sydney about six weeks ago, a meet and greet for the boys," he told AAP.

"After that I backed myself. I knew if I did the same things in club footy that I did to get into the team last year I would be a chance.

"But definitely it was frustrating not getting as many minutes this season.

"Last year I was playing pretty much 80 minutes for Souths, so to come off the bench was not ideal."




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