Darren Lockyer's Origin call on Selwyn Cobbo amid Billy Slater headache for Maroons

Lockyer's comments come after a worrying injury for a Queensland Origin incumbent.

NRL legend Darren Lockyer admits Queensland State of Origin coach Billy Slater faces a selection headache for the series opener in Sydney, following an injury to Dolphins flyer Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and the form of Selwyn Cobbo at centre. Tabuai-Fidow is the incumbent Maroons centre but is expected to be sidelined for 4-6 weeks after suffering a grade two hamstring tear during the round six loss to Cobbo's Broncos.

The best-case scenario for the 'Hammer' and Maroons is that he will return to NRL action three weeks before the Origin series kicks off in Sydney on June 5. That would leave Tabuai-Fidow with limited game time to prove he is back to form and full fitness for Queensland, as they look to win a third straight series against the Blues.

From left to right, Darren Lockyer, Selwyn Cobbo and Maroons coach Billy Slater.
Darren Lockyer says Maroons coach Billy Slater will have a big decision to make around where to play Selwyn Cobbo in the Origin series. Pic: Getty

Slater does have a very handy back-up option at centre in the form of Cobbo, who has excelled there for the Broncos in 2024 after shifting from the wing, where he has previously starred for the Maroons. Cobbo has played four games for Queensland and scored two tries in the opening game of last year's series before being ruled out of Games II and III with injury.

But Cobbo's form in the centres this year leaves Slater with somewhat of a conundrum, especially if the 'Hammer' is out for longer than four weeks with his hamstring injury. And Lockyer believes if Tabuai-Fidow does make a successful return before Origin, then Slater will stick with his incumbent and Cobbo will more than likely have to settle for a spot on the wing.

Pictured here, incumbent Maroons centre Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow on the NRL sidelines for the Dolphins.
Incumbent Maroons centre Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow is expected to be sidelined for 4-6 weeks with a hamstring injury. Pic: AAP

Darren Lockyer makes call on centre position for Maroons

"I think if Hammer is fit and Val is fit, I think Billy probably goes that way first," the Maroons legend said on Wide World of Sports QLDER podcast. "There is a fair bit of difference to playing centre to the wing in terms of making decisions defensively but also the workload with getting back for the kick and hit ups.

"If you're not doing that regularly every week... I think there's a bit of an adjustment that Billy would need to consider. As we know, a lot can happen in a week in the NRL. It comes down a lot to the fitness and form of players but the incumbents always get a bit of an advantage. But if Selwyn keeps playing well every week he will give himself the best chance."

Lockyer admits he had some reservations about how Cobbo would transition from the wing to centres for Brisbane in 2024 but says he's been pleasantly surprised by the performances from the rampaging 21-year-old. "He can play fullback, he can play wing, but I think left-centre. We've always talked about it, he's very similar to Greg Inglis. He's going to be pretty dangerous in that left centre position," Lockyer said.

"One of the things that I'm not nervous about but had some reservation about was whether he could handle the workload. But every week he has been building into good performance... and I think he will go from strength to strength here."

Seen here, Selwyn Cobbo racing away to score a try for Brisbane against the Dolphins in the NRL.
Selwyn Cobbo races away to score a try for Brisbane against the Dolphins in the NRL. Pic: Getty


Wally Lewis says Selwyn Cobbo can excel on the wing for QLD

Fellow league legend Wally Lewis agreed with Lockyer's view that Cobbo will have to be content with a spot on the wing for the Maroons if Tabuai-Fidow is fit. But the league Immortal says the Broncos ace has already proven himself more than capable of filling that role at Origin level.

"[Lockyer] hit the nail on the head there... it's not his preferred position," Lewis said about Cobbo being on the wing. "There are other players available to fill that role. It would've been encouraging for the selectors to see how well he went and know that if need be he could be used in that position.

"He's big, strong, powerful, and can be used there... I think we've seen him excel on the wing previously and realised that that's probably his number one priority. But who knows, injuries often happen a week short of State of Origin games and decisions need to be made."