‘Origin rookies will repay our faith’
WHEN Joe Ofahengaue answered a call from Kevin Walters and the Queensland coach told him he was making his Origin debut, he laughed and hung up.
Moses Mbye was having a backyard BBQ when the name the coach's name flashed up on his phone.
Then there's David Fifita, the 19-year-old Broncos young gun who has become the first player born in the 2000s to play State of Origin.
Meet Queensland's latest State of Origin debutants. An interchange trio who simply cannot believe they will be wearing Maroon in Origin I at Suncorp Stadium Wednesday week.
"They were all very excited," Walters said when asked about their reactions.
"Joe stayed over in New Zealand after the (Warriors) game and he thought I was lying to him, he thought it was a gee-up.
"He said, 'Is Alfie (Origin legend and prankster Allan Langer) with you? I said, 'No, he's not'. He hung up, then rang me back and said, 'Kevvie, I can't believe this, this is amazing.
"Moses was the same … he was choking up."
"Dave took it in his stride," Walters said.
"I actually told him he had made the Queensland under-18s team and he said, 'I'm too old for that', so I said, 'Well, you better come and play Origin with us then'."
As Fifita emerged from Queensland Rugby League headquarters on Monday, wearing the Maroons' senior kit for a team photo, the situation is now incredibly real.
Maroons trio Gavin Cooper, Coen Hess and Jarrod Wallace were dropped to accommodate Queensland's new caps and Walters is backing his rookies to relish the code's toughest arena.
For all their top-level inexperience, the triumvirate's roles in Origin I are vital.
Ofahengaue and Fifita will provide the power, mongrel and go-forward grunt off the bench, while Mbye must be ready for any scenario as Queensland's No.14 utility.
"The guys will repay the faith of their selection," Walters said.
"David Fifita … we know how he has been the standout for the Broncos, the intensity and aggression he plays with is something that has stood out.
"Moses Mbye is another guy who is captain of the Tigers and plays a number of positions for us, that is vital at Origin level.
"He is a player of great utility value, which is very important for the Maroons in series 2019.
"Joe Ofahengaue, our other player who is new to the Queensland side, he was knocking on the door last year and we just couldn't leave him out of the side.
"He has been outstanding for the Broncos and he will be an integral part of our side.
"I know when they receive their Queensland jumpers, they have worked a lifetime to get to this level, certainly a guy like Moses has.
"The three guys have been through our systems so they know what it means to play for Queensland."
Queensland: Kalyn Ponga, Corey Oates, Michael Morgan, Will Chambers, Dane Gagai, Cameron Munster, Daly Cherry-Evans, Jai Arrow, Ben Hunt, Josh Papalii, Felise Kaufusi, Matt Gillett, Josh Maguire. Interchange: Moses Mbye, Dylan Napa, David Fifita, Joe Ofahengaue, Tim Gladsby.
NSW: James Tedesco, Nick Cotric, Latrell Mitchell, Josh Morris, Josh Addo-Carr, Cody Walker, Nathan Cleary, David Klemmer, Damien Cook, Paul Vaughan, Boyd Cordner, Tyson Frizell, Jake Trbojevic. Interchange: Jack Wighton, Payne Haas, Cameron Murray, Angus Crichton.