Maroons team: Holmes eager to silence critics
Valentine Holmes has hit back at his critics after the Origin try-scoring ace was named to make his Queensland return as Maroons coach Wayne Bennett axed Cowboys gun Coen Hess.
The Cowboys flyer was on Friday named to make his first Origin appearance at fullback to replace the injured AJ Brimson (foot).
In-form prop Christian Welch has also been ruled out after suffering concussion in Queensland's Game 1 win at the Adelaide Oval while Hess has been dropped following an average performance.
Raiders prop Dunamis Lui and rising Titans star Moeaki Fotuaika have been named in Queensland's 21-man squad to make their Origin debuts while Jaydn Su'A will be promoted from the bench to replace Hess.
"Christian got a head knock, so we are resting him as a precaution," Bennett said.
"Dunamis Lui is an experienced NRL player. He's played in a grand final at Canberra (2019) so I just want him to have a simple role, run hard and tackle hard and play the way he does at the Raiders.
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"Mo is a huge talent, I like what he can bring for us off the bench.
"I thought Coen was OK, but it was a tough decision initially to leave Su'A out and I thought he was very good for us when he came off the bench the other night.
"Losing AJ isn't ideal but Valentine has done the job at this level before, his experience was a factor."
The return of Holmes to the Origin arena for the first time since July 11, 2018, will be a huge boost for the Maroons against the desperate Blues.
Holmes, 25, is one of Origin's most prolific tryscorers, crossing eight times in only five matches on the wing.
While he returned from a one-year stint in the NFL to play fullback for North Queensland this year, Holmes has constantly copped criticism that his best position is out wide.
Holmes said he wasn't fazed by his detractors and explained why he wanted to wear Queensland's famous No.1 jersey.
"It's hard to prove it here, I've obviously played well for Queensland on the wing but I haven't played fullback for Queensland," he said.
"I don't really need to prove to anyone. I don't really care what other people think.
"I just want to play footy, that's what I'm here to do and love doing. It doesn't matter where I play.
"It's special and an honour to pull on the jersey in the first place. To play fullback, a lot of great fullbacks have played for this state and represented the state really well.
"I like to be around the ball more and pushing up through the middle.
"I know I can finish on the wings. When you have a great team like this they can make you look good on the wing.
"To get the best out of me, I need to be touching the ball more through the middle third and getting off some good ruck speed and offloads. That's where I've always found my best footy. You're limited on the wing.
"I've had a great time playing wing here so I'm pretty happy wherever I play."
The Maroons held a light training session on the Gold Coast on Friday morning in their first hitout since beating the Blues 18-14 in Adelaide on Wednesday night.
Centre Kurt Capewell (groin) took little part but declared he was on track to play while Brenko Lee (calf) is unlikely to be available for Game 2.
Holmes was put through a fitness session after not playing in Game 1 due to suspension and did not train with the main squad for attacking practice, but said he was raring to go.
"I was getting a bit of conditioning and contact in, a little bit of extra running because today wasn't too big of a day," he said.
"It doesn't help having not played any finals footy. It's been over a month, nearly two, since I've played, but these guys have kept in shape and I did training before I came into camp.
"I feel like I'm fit enough and ready to go. If I get the call I'm ready to go and injury-free."
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Holmes said he looked up to the likes of fullback greats Billy Slater, Darius Boyd and Matt Bowen while he was impressed by the work Brimson did in his impressive debut.
Queensland legend Darren Lockyer, one of the Maroons' greatest ever fullbacks, said Holmes had the talent to thrive at No. 1 in the Origin arena.
"It's a shame to lose AJ but Val is the natural choice," he said.
"There is no other real standout solution. I thought Val finished the year quite well at the Cowboys and he brings some X-factor to the team.
"I know he has played wing at Origin but his strike-rate scoring tries is incredible so he's been on the stage before and he is a proven performer in that arena."
Welch had a sensational season for the premiership-winning Storm and was strong in the opening exchanges of Game 1 before being forced from the field with concussion.
With only a week between matches this series, Welch was ruled out of the return bout in Sydney but will come into calculations for Game 3 at Suncorp Stadium on November 18.
Former Broncos prop Lui has been one of Canberra's most improved players in recent years while Fotuaika was the Gold Coast's player-of-the-year in 2019 and runner-up this season.
QUEENSLAND 21-MAN SQUAD
For Game 2 at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday
1. Valentine Holmes
2. Xavier Coates
3. Kurt Capewell
4. Dane Gagai
5. Phil Sami
6. Cameron Munster
7. Daly Cherry-Evans
8. Dunamis Lui
9. Jake Friend
10. Josh Papalii
11. Felise Kaufusi
12. Jaydn Sua
13. Tino Fa'asuamaleaui
14. Ben Hunt
15. Lindsay Collins
16. Jai Arrow
17. Moeaki Fotuaika
18. Brenko lee
Originally published as Maroons team: Holmes eager to silence critics