‘Not 100 per cent’: Slater explains shock axing

NRL Rd 15 -  Rabbitohs v Broncos
Selwyn Cobbo isn’t 100 per cent fit to play State of Origin, Billy Slater says. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Queensland coach Billy Slater says Selwyn Cobbo is “not quite 100 per cent” and had been getting through games with injections as he explained the shock decision to leave the Broncos star out of his Queensland team for the second State of Origin clash at the MCG next Wednesday.

Cobbo, who came off the bench and played a key role in the Maroons’ opening 38-10 win over NSW after fullback Reece Walsh was concussed in the seventh minute, is one of two changes to the team made by Slater.

Former Bronco Kurt Capewell will replace Cobbo on the bench, with Felise Kaufusi called in to the 17 for J’maine Hopgood who is out with a back injury.

Slater said after a “lengthy and deep” conversation with Cobbo he felt it was the “best thing” for the team to leave him out, knowing he needs players as close to 100 per cent fit as possible to try to seal the series.

“Selwyn is not quite 100 per cent at the moment,” Slater said on Monday morning.

“He has been playing with injections and that sort of stuff.

“Collectively, with a few things he would like to work on in his game, we felt it was best for Selwyn to have a rest.

2024 Men's State of Origin - NSW v QLD: Game 1
Selwyn Cobbo and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow were dynamite in game one. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

“Selwyn has just turned 22 and we forget these guys are young and still developing physically and still developing their game and building that consistency.

“It’s not one size fits all, I felt it was the right thing for Selwyn to have a break and he will wear a Maroons jersey again.

“I have a great relationship with Selwyn. I had a lengthy and deep discussion with him yesterday.

“We are all on the same page.”

The 11-day stand-down period for Walsh ended on Sunday and Slater confirmed the Maroons fullback would be a certain starter in the No.1 jersey despite Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow’s stunning return as his fill-in in the opening match.

“Reece has got clearance, he is good,” he said.

“Reece is Queensland’s fullback. Hammer is Queensland’s centre and I saw a fair bit of form in Reece’s preparation (before game one) and I am looking forward to him going after his game.”

Slater said the five changes made by NSW, including recalling Latrell Mitchell, didn’t change his focus in the quest for three straight series titles.

“They have great players, we are not disrespectful to that or them as a collective,” he said.

“We won’t disrespect our game either, that’s our priority. They are a dangerous team with good players. We will be aware of what they bring as football players. That’s an argument for someone else.

“My focus and energy goes to our preparation. Everyone has their job and will do their job.

“My job is to help the players be at their best for 80 minutes at the MCG.”