Milford called up for Origin opener and Slater misses out as doubts remain over Thurston
Anthony Milford is set to debut for Queensland Maroons as Jonathan Thurston struggles to prove his fitness, while rugby league icon Billy Slater may have played his last State of Origin.
Milford was among two new faces included in Kevin Walters' starting 17 for the Origin opener against New South Wales Blues at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on May 31.
With North Queensland Cowboys star and three-time Rugby League World Golden Boot winner Thurston struggling to overcome a shoulder injury sustained on international duty with Australia, Brisbane Broncos playmaker Milford has been given the nod at five-eighth.
Thurston - who has played 36 consecutive Origin games - will still travel to Brisbane after being named as the 18th man, though Walters concedes it is "unlikely" that the 34-year-old will be ready as the Maroons seek a third consecutive Origin series triumph.
"We feel that Anthony deserves an opportunity at the next level to show everyone that he's capable," Walters said.
"We just felt that Anthony is the right choice."
Sydney Roosters prop Dylan Napa gets his opportunity in place of the injured Matt Scott.
However, the biggest talking point is Slater's representative snub.
Despite making a successive NRL return from consecutive shoulder reconstructions, Melbourne Storm veteran Slater was overlooked in favour of Darius Boyd.
"It was very close." said Walters. "It was a very tough decision that we had to make around Billy.
"He's been a great player for Queensland, but we just felt that [for] Game I, Darius was Queensland's best player in last year's series and on the Four Nations at the end of last year he was in the top two or three players for Australia and again this year in the Test he was outstanding.
"We've relieved him of those duties and I know Darius will get the job done for us. He's a great player and deserves first crack at the number one jumper."
QLD Maroons squad in full: Darius Boyd, Corey Oates, Will Chambers, Justin O'Neill, Dane Gagai, Anthony Milford, Cooper Cronk, Dylan Napa, Cameron Smith (c), Nate Myles, Josh Papalii, Matt Gillett, Josh McGuire, Michael Morgan, Sam Thaiday, Aidan Guerra, Jacob Lillyman, 18th man: Johnathan Thurston