Bennett shocked Friend is Origin rookie

Ed Jackson
·2-min read

Queensland coach Wayne Bennett is such a fan of Jake Friend it took the veteran coach by surprise when he realised the 30-year-old hadn't played State of Origin before.

Friend spent most of his career stuck behind Cameron Smith in the pecking order of Maroons' hookers but will finally get his chance to represent his state in Wednesday's series opener in Adelaide.

It's a debut Bennett was shocked to learn hadn't already happened.

"I thought he'd already played for Queensland for some reason over the last couple of years but he hasn't," Bennett said after the Maroons' captain's run on Tuesday.

"We tried to get him to the Broncos as a kid and he decided to go to the Roosters."

That decision to head to Bondi has paid off handsomely for Friend, who has made 262 games for the Tri-Colours and won three premierships.

That level of proven experience is why Bennett expects Friend to take to Origin like a duck to water and be an immediate leader in a team which will feature at least eight debutants.

"The point is I've admired what he's done at the Roosters for a long time," Bennett said.

"He's part of that forward pack that I think we can get some confidence out of because he's a very good player and you know he'll be doing his absolute best tomorrow night.

"His best has been good enough to put the Roosters in the last two grand final until this year. He's a quality player."

The only other starting forward for Queensland who has yet to play Origin is Melbourne youngster Tino Fa'asuamaleaui.

The Gold Coast-bound 20-year-old has been named to start at lock ahead of Jai Arrow in one of the more surprising selections by Bennett.

The veteran coach, however, said opting for Fa'asuamaleaui was a no-brainer.

"Well one guy weighs 116 kilograms and is mobile as anything, the other guy's about 98 (kgs). It wasn't a hard decision," Bennett said, adding the game plan for his young lock will be a simple one.

"Just run as hard as he can. Tackle as hard as he can.

"When he can't do that anymore, I'll get him off."