Walters gives Slater deadline to prove Origin II fitness
BILLY Slater will be picked for Queensland's must-in State of Origin game two in Sydney but the veteran fullback must prove his fitness by Wednesday.
Queensland selector Darren Lockyer confirmed Slater would be named on Monday in the Maroons' squad for June 24's Origin II despite battling an ongoing hamstring issue.
However, after an injury-disrupted lead-up to their 22-12 loss in game one, Maroons coach Kevin Walters wants all fitness concerns cleared by their first official training session at their Gold Coast camp on Wednesday.
Lockyer said Newcastle's Kalyn Ponga would be on standby for Slater but revealed the Knights young gun would be considered for a spot in the 17 even if the veteran fullback was passed fit.
Slater withdrew just days ahead of Origin I in a nightmare build-up in which halfback Ben Hunt, lock Josh McGuire and winger Dane Gagai were also under injury clouds.
"Billy has indicated to Kevvie that he will be right to play," Lockyer told Nine Network on Sunday.
"I think in light of what happened in game one where our preparation had a lot of distractions, a lot of guys could't train, Kevvie wants to hit the ground running on Wednesday, he wants 17 guys fit and ready.
"Billy obviously will be named at No.1 and training on Wednesday and if there any issues then someone like Kalyn Ponga will come in."
If Slater is passed fit, Ponga may get a nod as Queensland's bench utility with Michael Morgan sidelined for the rest of the series after scans confirmed he had suffered a torn biceps in North Queensland's NRL loss to the Warriors.
Asked if Ponga was a chance of being picked even if Slater is fit, Lockyer said: "Of course he is.
"The fact that there is no Michael Morgan, if Billy is not fit then Ponga, who everyone has been screaming out to be selected, then this would be his opportunity."
North Queensland confirmed on Sunday that Morgan had been booked for surgery that was expected to sideline him for six weeks after he was injured trying to tackle Warriors No.1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in Friday's NRL loss.
Morgan had deputised for fullback Slater in Queensland's series-opening loss in Melbourne.
There was some relief for the Maroons, with Sydney Roosters enforcer Dylan Napa cleared of a serious ankle injury.
He will still have to prove his fitness on Wednesday along with Slater. Scans confirmed on Saturday that Napa had aggravated a previous injury when he sustained minor ligament damage after his left ankle was twisted in a tackle against Penrith on Friday night.
The Roosters prop left the field early in their brutal win over the Panthers and did not return.
The Maroons will be sweating on Napa after ex-Test prop Matt Scott's chances of an Origin recall took a hit when he missed North Queensland's loss to the Warriors with back and neck concerns.