Charles Knight

Barba's Origin nerves

A HOUSEHOLD in East Mackay will be nervously awaiting today's announcement of the Queensland team for the State of Origin opener next Wednesday at Suncorp Stadium.

Ben Barba's parents Ken and Kim are naturally proud of their footballing family, and are keen to see their son take the next step in his career.

Bulldogs fullback Barba, 22, was one of four rookies selected for the Maroons preliminary squad, and is considered an outside chance for the team to be announced by coach Mal Meninga in Brisbane today.

“It all depends on how they go, whether they take a forward on the bench or a back,” Ken said.

“NSW have got a lot of youth in their squad.

“It's up to the selectors whether it's the right time to put him in now.”

Barba is understood to be negotiating a deal to remain with the Bulldogs for the next four years, following an outstanding opening to the season in which he has been scoring some sensational tries.

His younger brother Marmin, 21, is also raising eyebrows with some outstanding performances for the Parramatta U20 side in the National Youth Cup.

“He was at the Bulldogs and the only reason he's gone to Parramatta is to basically do his own thing,” Ken said.

“He scored a few tries up at Townsville on the weekend.”

Queensland selectors were meeting yesterday to choose their 17-man Origin squad, expected to feature the return of injured Test centre Justin Hodges' Broncos teammate Corey Parker after a six year absence.

Hodges is facing a month sidelined from rugby league after scans confirmed a minor hamstring tear in his right leg.

It means Hodges will miss the opening State of Origin game but is an outside chance of playing for Queensland in the second game in Sydney next month if he gets back on the field.

Having played his way back into the Australian team after just six NRL games, Hodges suffered the leg injury playing for Brisbane in Friday night's NRL match against Penrith.

Cowboys centre Willie Tonga will replace Hodges but his North Queensland teammate Dallas Johnson seems likely to miss out after giving up his Queensland spot while playing in the UK last season.

South Sydney forward Dave Taylor is likely to be another omission after playing all three games last year when Queensland won a record fifth series on the trot.


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