Billy Slater's late call on Maroons team for State of Origin decider

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·Sports Reporter
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Maroons coach Billy Slater (pictured) at a State of Origin press conference.
Maroons legend Wally Lewis has suggested coach Billy Slater (pictured) could make a late change to the team ahead of State of Origin Game III. (Getty Images)

Queensland great Wally Lewis said he wouldn't be surprised if coach Billy Slater makes a late change to the Maroons' starting team ahead of Game III in State of Origin.

Slater and the Maroons won't confirm their line-up until an hour before kick-off on Wednesday at Suncorp Stadium for the Game III decider with debutant Tom Dearden expected to start in the halves.

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However, there has been speculation the Maroons could make a change in the build-up against the Blues.

Indications are that the 21-year-old North Queensland playmaker will wear the No.6 in a straight swap for Cameron Munster - ruled out due to Covid-19 - leaving Ben Hunt at hooker, Kalyn Ponga at fullback and Harry Grant on the bench.

However, NRL Immortal Lewis told Nine's Wide World of Sport that he expects a potential late change to the team.

“It’s very hard to work out, I think Billy may even pull a little bit of a swifty close to the game, come up with something New South Wales weren’t expecting,” Lewis told Nine's Today.

“That’s the key to State of Origin, coming up with something that your opponents don’t expect.

“It will certainly be won up front, the big boys, and that’s where New South Wales appears to have a lot more size.”

This would most likely see the more experienced Hunt shift No.6, Grant to the starting team and Dearden coming off from the bench.

Queensland captain backs Tom Dearden

While the starting team has yet to be revealed, captain Daly Cherry-Evans said whoever lines up in the No.6 jersey next to him will perform.

"Whoever plays five-eighth just has to be themselves," the captain said.

"There's no-one in the comp that can replicate Cameron Munster ... he's his own unique beast, but we're all excited at what we can do to help this team win on Wednesday."

Dearden has been with the squad all series, that acknowledgement alone a nod to his revival since a mid-season exit from Brisbane last year.

Hyped as a Broncos saviour, he's instead rediscovered himself in Townsville to help the Cowboys to second with a 12-4 record.

Tom Dearden (pictured) looks to pass during a Queensland Maroons State of Origin training session.
Tom Dearden (pictured) could be set to start at No.6 for the Maroons in State of Origin Game III. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

"With confirmation he's playing we've caught up on a few reps, and Benny as well, so I'm feeling really comfortable with both of them," Cherry-Evans said.

"He's playing great footy with the Cowboys; everyone watching him come through all saw the ability that he had.

"It's great to see him play like the way it is ... and Tommy won't skip a beat out there.

"The style of footy he plays (suits Origin); he's brave, a good defender, a competitor, not going to let the game go by."

with AAP

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