Maroons didn't pick and stick: McGregor

Matt Encarnacion

They built a State of Origin dynasty on a "pick-and-stick" policy, but NSW great Paul McGregor reckons Queensland have abandoned it by axing Ben Hunt as halfback for game three.

Hunt had just two shots in the No.7 jumper for the Maroons - both ending in defeats - before selectors opted to hand his spot to Manly star Daly Cherry-Evans.

McGregor, who coaches Hunt at St George Illawarra, wasn't happy with Hunt's demotion from Queensland's chief playmaker to bench utility.

"I'm happy for NSW because I'm a New South Welshman, but I am certainly disappointed on an individual basis for Benny," McGregor said on Wednesday.

"However, he will do a very good job off the interchange. With Benny coming on in that dummy half - which one would think - he could cause some trouble late in the game.

"It gives Queensland a different dimension but I still feel that Benny didn't do enough wrong."

Queensland were on the lookout for a new halves star following the representative retirements of Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston over the past 12 months.

And Hunt earned his chance after delivering on his big-money move to Wollongong by leading the Dragons to the top of the table before the series.

But the 28-year-old was heavily criticised for his performance in game two.

Asked whether the Maroons defied their own pick-and-stick policy, McGregor said: "Looks like it, doesn't it?

"Well, they haven't lost for a while so I think losing challenges them in all different areas. They've been very fortunate to have stability in their side.

"You're talking about players in that team that will go down as the all-time best. I'll never see a couple of them players again in my lifetime.

"For me, it was a good opportunity this year for NSW. They've lost the first two games. They've made change, that's their choice."

With the ladder-leading Dragons primed for a premiership tilt, McGregor insisted Hunt's axing wouldn't derail his - and the team's - campaign.

Asked whether he was concerned his confidence would drop, McGregor said: "No.

"You need to just relax. He's had some very good games for our club.

"And when he comes back, which will be after this game, he's got eight weeks to finish the season how he's played the first two thirds of it."