Johnathan Thurston has been named 18th man for Queensland
Johnathan Thurston has been named 18th man for Queensland DAVE HUNT

Maroons make shock selections for Origin

ANTHONY Milford will make his Origin debut next Wednesday, after the Queensland selectors named him at five-eighth ahead of injured veteran Johnathan Thurston.

Coach Kevin Walters has avoided a stand-off with Broncos coach Wayne Bennett, naming Milford today in the starting position.

He said Thurston, who was named 18th man, will be given the chance to come down and prove his fitness, but is an outside chance of playing.

"Johnathan's obviously under a fitness cloud," Walters said.

"It's unlikely (he'll play). We felt the best way to handle the situation was to name a nominated 17.

"We felt (Thurston) earnt the right to come down and see if he's able to play."

Walters said there is no deadline for Thurston to prove his fitness but they have faith in Milford to do the job.

Milford beat out the likes of Michael Morgan and Cameron Munster for the starting jersey, but Morgan will still come off the bench in a utility role.

Walters said the selectors know it's time for the Broncos playmaker to step up to the Origin arena.

"We feel that Anthony deserves an opportunity at the next level to show everyone that he's capable," he said.

"We just felt that Anthony is the right choice."

The other shock from today's announcement was the omission of Melbourne fullback Billy Slater.

Darius Boyd will start at No.1, with Justin O'Neill retaining his place in the centres.

"It was a really tough decision we had to make around Billy," Walters said.

"Darius was Queensland's best player in last year's series.

"It was also just a little bit unfair on Billy to put him under pressure for Game One of the series."

Queensland selector Gene Miles said it was the "toughest" decision they've ever had to make to leave Slater out of the team, but he could be available for selection in Game Two.

Team:

1 - Darius Boyd

2 - Corey Oates

3 - Will Chambers

4 - Justin O'Neill

5 - Dane Gagai

6 - Anthony Milford

7 - Cooper Cronk

8 - Dylan Napa

9 - Cameron Smith

10 - Nate Myles

11 - Josh Papalii

12 - Matt Gillett

13 - Josh McGuire

14 - Michael Morgan

15 - Sam Thaiday

16 - Aidan Guerra

17 - Jacob Lillyman

18th man: Johnathan Thurston

News Corp Australia

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