Maroons facing 'hard' selection call after timely return

Maroons facing ‘hard’ selection call after timely return

BRISBANE: Billy Slater has his own injury concerns to deal with – but at the same time, the Queensland coach received a more welcome headache at Magic Round.

While there were devastating scenes on Sunday afternoon when star five-eighth Cameron Munster limped off with a groin injury, there was more positive news less than 24 hours prior when Murray Taulagi returned from injury for the Cowboys.

The 25-year-old, who has starred for the Maroons in the past two series, had missed over a month with a hamstring strain in a major blow to his State of Origin hopes.

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However, his successful comeback – which saw North Queensland snap a lengthy losing streak – will give Slater food for thought when it comes to his outside backs.

Speaking exclusively to Wide World of Sports over the weekend, Taulagi admitted it would be a difficult task to be selected – but reiterated he wants to “earn” the opportunity rather than coast on his previous efforts for his state.

“It’s a hard one – I probably haven’t played my best footy this year,” he said.

“You’ve got [Selwyn] Cobbo and [Xavier] Coates there who have been outstanding, so it’s gonna be a hard one for myself. I haven’t heard anything yet – I think he [Slater] is trying to keep that low key, I’m not too sure.

“We spoke earlier on in the year about earning it and that’s one thing that I wanted to do. I don’t want to just get picked because of what I’ve done last year.

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“I know whoever Billy picks will definitely get the job done. I’m just trying to get back to performing well for my club first and whatever comes from it will come from it.”

Taulagi finished with 14 runs for 156 metres in the narrow win over the Rabbitohs, set up a try for Tom Dearden, and made four tackle breaks.

North Queensland’s win ended a period of misery for Todd Payten and his squad, who were highly-fancied in the pre-season but have struggled for consistency in 2024.

The inclusion of Taulagi has bolstered multiple areas for the Cowboys and the main thing the winger hoped to add upon his return was infectious among the group. 

“I wanted to bring energy to the boys – that energy hasn’t been there,” he said.

“I know I don’t make many tackles out there, but one way I can help the boys is to bring energy and I felt like I brought that out tonight.

“I feel refreshed, but I’ve lost a bit of game fitness. I’m still trying to find my feet again, it’s been a month out of footy. I’m trying to get back to where I left off.”

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