Slater ruled out of State of Origin I

Laine Clark
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SOO MAROONS TRAINING

Billy Slater has reportedly been ruled out of Origin I with a hamstring injury

Hours after coach Kevin Walters declared him fit, Billy Slater has succumbed to a hamstring injury and sensationally pulled out of Wednesday's State of Origin series opener in a massive blow for Queensland.

Brisbane's Anthony Milford and Newcastle's Kalyn Ponga will fly into Melbourne as the Maroons regroup from the veteran fullback's shock withdrawal.

Queensland were already without a total of 151 Origin games' worth of experience as they prepared to begin life without retired greats, ex-skipper Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk on Wednesday.

Now Slater - a veteran of 29 Origins - is out of the opener and racing the clock to feature again for Queensland after previously announcing this would be his final interstate series.

Asked if he feared he had played his last Origin, Slater said: "I haven't really thought about that."

The Maroons were accused of smoke and mirrors after Walters gave his side a clean bill of health at a packed MCG press conference on Monday morning, only for a release confirming Slater's withdrawal to emerge hours later.

There was speculation Walters did not say anything at the press conference because he was waiting for Slater to officially break the news to the team at their Gold Coast camp before flying into Melbourne on Monday night.

But Slater claimed Walters did not know about his decision until lunchtime on Monday despite admitting he pulled up sore from Sunday's training.

"I just didn't pull up as well as I wanted to from training but wanted to wait until mid-morning (Monday)," Slater said.

"I haven't had a hamstring injury before so I had nothing to measure it off.

"Unfortunately we came up with the decision that it was best I pull out but it wasn't real official until lunchtime and I didn't tell the boys until we left (Gold Coast) at about 12.30pm.

"The last thing I want to do is come off 20 minutes into the game and leave us to 16 men - it was a decision that was not only best for me but for the team."

With Slater's withdrawal, new Maroons skipper Greg Inglis is the last surviving member of the 2006 Queensland team that began their remarkable run of 11 series wins in 12 years.

The Maroons' dominance is now set for its sternest test in more than a decade.

Earlier Walters told a press conference Slater and other injury concerns Ben Hunt (thigh) and Josh McGuire (ankle) would play.

He later changed his tune, saying he was yet to decide Slater's replacement at fullback in a statement.

Brisbane playmaker Milford played his sole Origin in the halves last year while Newcastle's Ponga is in line for a possible last minute debut.

Meanwhile, Walters confirmed Cronulla flyer Valentine Holmes would be the Maroons' new goal kicker.

Inglis will become Queensland's 13th captain and third indigenous Maroons leader when he officially takes over from 42 Origin great Smith on Wednesday.