Maroons hooker: NRL.com experts have their say

With Andrew McCullough and Jake Friend injured, and Cameron Smith having retired from representative football, who should wear the No.9 jersey for Queensland in State of Origin I?

NRL.com's experts view

Steve Renouf (Maroons legend)

With a couple of hookers absent through injury, the obvious choice for me will be Ben Hunt. He's played there for Queensland in the past and has a fan in the coach Kevin Walters.

Brett Kimmorley (Former Kangaroos halfback)

Ben Hunt should play dummy-half. He's creative, he's a strong tackler, and he won't have to manage the team as he does at club level – just make his tackles, pass the ball and run when he wants to run. I'd pick Jake Granville on the bench to create a bit of havoc for the NSW forwards when they start to tire.

Jamie Soward (Former Blues five-eighth)

Josh McGuire. He's played hooker at international level and would bring great work rate and strengthen the middle in the opening 20 minutes, with Ben Hunt to come on and add spark off the bench in the final 60.

Margie McDonald (NRL.com senior reporter)

Jake Turpin. He's no baby – 22 years-old – and has made try assists and line-break assists for the Broncos in his past two NRL games as Andrew McCullough's stand-in. Brisbane coach Anthony Seibold, a former Maroons assistant, loves him and used to coach him in Queensland under-18s. Turpin is one of the key reasons Redcliffe Dolphins won the Intrust Super Cup last year, so give him a go!

Zac Bailey (NRL.com reporter)

Ben Hunt. He's the safe option, but the best option. Hunt has struggled in the past playing in the halves, but when he isn't the main man at Origin level he has handled the occasion. If Daly Cherry-Evans is fit in the halves alongside Cameron Munster, there won't be as much pressure on Hunt to come up with the big plays and he could be a running threat out of dummy half – which Queensland will need against Damien Cook and his Blues.

Paul Suttor (NRL.com editor)

Whoever they pick to wear the No.9 jersey, it'll be a gamble for the Maroons. Ben Hunt is the logical choice although his experience playing big minutes at hooker is minimal so they'll need someone on the bench who can fill in if necessary and that should be Parra young gun Reed Mahoney, who has shown he's a star of the future but would not quite be ready for the rigours of the starting job in Origin just yet.

Maria Tsialis (Big League editor)

If Cameron Smith is actually there to be picked, there is no way he wouldn't be the first person in a Queensland side, retired or not. However – more realistically – if Cameron Munster and Daly Cherry-Evans line up in the halves, I think Ben Hunt can do a job at hooker. The only question mark remains whether he can do it for 80 minutes at Origin level.

Tony Webeck (NRL.com reporter)

Kevin Campion. Michael Crocker. Wayne Bartrim. In between Hall of Fame hookers Steve Walters and Cameron Smith, Queensland selectors have not been afraid to go left-field with their No.9. and – providing he has recovered from his calf injury – I can see them doing the same with Josh McGuire in Game One.

Brett Keeble (NRL.com reporter)

Under the circumstances, Queensland selectors could do worse than starting the game with Ben Hunt at hooker then bringing James Segeyaro off the bench to give Hunt a rest. Segeyaro has emerged from obscurity to give the Broncos a lift and could cause NSW problems late in a tight game. Hunt could cover any issues in the halves.  

Chris Kennedy (NRL.com reporter)

There's no perfect answer but Ben Hunt shapes as the best option. He has shown in the past he can slot in there seamlessly even when playing halfback at club level and has plenty of rep experience. Freed of the need to run the whole team from No.7 he can just worry about his running and passing. He's an excellent defender for a half but would still need cover elsewhere in the 17 via a bench utility or skilful forward because defending in the middle for 80 minutes in Origin is a huge ask. Even if Daly Cherry-Evans isn't fit I would move Michael Morgan to half and replace him in the backs and leave Hunt at hooker.

Lone Scout (NRL Fantasy expert)

The Maroons are up against a confident Blues side with plenty of points in them, so nullifying the NSW forwards in the early stages and turning the game into an arm wrestle could be their path to victory. That suggests ball-playing lock Josh McGuire could fill a role at dummy-half in the No.9 jersey then move into the middle rotation when Ben Hunt is injected into the game after about 20 minutes. Hunt's flair and creativity would be more valuable for Queensland as the game wears on as well.

Mary Konstantopoulos (Ladies Who League)

There's precedent in Queensland for a comeback ala Alfie Langer, so why not bring Cameron Smith back for this year's State of Origin series (if he's willing to play). The Maroons seem to have an unprecedented injury crises leading into this season which has wiped out Jake Friend and Andrew McCullough and with one of the best players in the game available to play, the Maroons should pick Cameron.

Match: Maroons v Blues

Game 1 -

Full Time
Maroons

Home Team

Maroons

Scored 18 points
Blues

Away Team

Blues

Scored 14 points

Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

Match broadcasters:

  • Nine Network

Brad Walter (NRL.com senior reporter)

I'd start with Josh McGuire and bring on Ben Hunt after about 25 minutes. This kills two birds with one stone as the Maroons are also light on for the No.14 options. McGuire has performed a similar role for Brisbane and Samoa in the past and Hunt is at his best against tired defences rather than playing 80 minutes in the middle.

Corey Rosser (NRL.com reporter)

Provided Cameron Smith can't be coaxed​ out of rep retirement, Ben Hunt is the safest option to start at hooker given his experience in the position at the highest levels of the game. I'd then bring James Segeyaro off the bench to terrorise the NSW forwards.

Kenny Scott (NRL.com podcaster)

If Origin is going to live up to the hype this year, then it has to be Smith. Forget form, forget tactics – State of Origin is built on stories. Smith coming out of retirement to answer the distress call of a state faced with a dearth of talent and experience in the middle is just what the series needs to spark another memorable chapter in sport's greatest rivalry.

Tanisha Stanton (NRL.com reporter)

He may not be in career-best form at the moment but Ben Hunt would have to be the pick of the bunch. He already has experience in the Origin arena and if need be he can make a seamless transition into the halves.

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.