The Queensland Maroons rebuild under Wayne Bennett is well and truly underway, with the master coach naming a new-look side in his initial 15-man squad.
The Queensland Maroons rebuild under Wayne Bennett is well and truly underway, with the master coach naming a new-look side in his initial 15-man squad.

Broncos’ unwanted record in Bennett’s rookie Maroons squad

Wayne Bennett will look for inspiration from "Fatty's Nevilles" when he turns to one of the least experienced teams in Queensland history after the Maroons named nine Origin rookies - with more to come.

New Queensland coach Bennett revealed an initial 15-man train-on squad on Wednesday to begin preparations ahead of Origin I in Adelaide on November 4.

Bennett has axed 14-Origin regular Josh McGuire over fears he could destabilise the Maroons as he looks to usher in a new generation of talent during an injury crisis.

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The Titans are the most represented team in Bennett’s new squad, with four players set to play for the Maroons. Picture: Getty Images.
The Titans are the most represented team in Bennett’s new squad, with four players set to play for the Maroons. Picture: Getty Images.

"Bennett's Babies" include the likes of untested Gold Coast trio AJ Brimson, Phil Sami and Moeaki Fotuaika, who along with Jai Arrow make the Titans the largest represented club in the squad.

The Broncos will be represented by rising winger Xavier Coates and forward Pat Carrigan, who on Wednesday claimed Brisbane's Paul Morgan Medal alongside NSW star Payne Haas.

Newcastle duo Edrick Lee and Hymel Hunt have been named along with Knights star Kalyn Ponga, who is under an injury cloud as he awaits to consult a shoulder surgeon.

Paul "Fatty" Vautin famously coached Queensland to a 3-0 win in 1995 with a team made up of so-called "Nevilles" as the Super League war robbed the Maroons of their Broncos stars.

After replacing Broncos-bound Kevin Walters as coach, Bennett said he was excited about working with the inexperienced group as Queensland looks to snap a two-year losing streak.

 

Origin enforcer Josh McGuire has not been named in the initial squad. Picture: Getty Images.
Origin enforcer Josh McGuire has not been named in the initial squad. Picture: Getty Images.

 

"We've got an exciting mix of both emerging and seasoned talent in the squad so far and we're really pleased to be able to announce this group today after what has been a challenging period for the game," Bennett said.

"The players named in this squad today will have a small window to freshen up before commencing work with our high performance team to ensure they are in peak condition for the series.

"We haven't given up on Ponga yet. He will see the doctor and he will come back to us on that. He could still be some chance."

 

The Maroons will be without the injured Michael Morgan, David Fifita and Kyle Feldt while Valentine Holmes will miss Game One through suspension.

Broncos prop Joe Ofahengaue has been dropped while winger Corey Oates was not considered for selection due to injuries, although his form for Brisbane was a concern.

The axing of McGuire is a big move by Bennett given the Cowboys forward was initially in the squad selected by Walters before he relinquished the coaching duties.

McGuire was unlikely to feature in Queensland's starting side and there were concerns about his influence on the squad if he was overlooked for selection.

 

Wayne Bennett’s squad has a ‘Fatty’s Nevilles’ feel.
Wayne Bennett’s squad has a ‘Fatty’s Nevilles’ feel.

 

In his fourth stint as Queensland coach, Bennett has also made a significant off-field decision in punting Walters' assistant coach Justin Hodges in favour of Neil Henry, who played in key role during the Maroons' eight-straight dynasty.

"Neil is a good coach, people have a good wrap on him," Bennett said.

"He is a good person and he has worked with Queensland before under Mal Meninga, he's a very experienced coach.

"I have always had a good rapport with him. Technically he is very good, so I am more than happy to have him on board. He is pleased to be a part of it which is great.

"Hodgo just doesn't have the experience at this point in time. It's nothing more than that.

"I needed a coaching assistant with more experience and Neil has a lot more experience than Justin. We have a group of 27 and only a small period of time to work with them so we can't have rookie coaches in the squad.

"I will be keeping all the other staff Kevvie had. Guys like Alex Corvo (trainer) and Petero Civoniceva (forwards coach) will be on board."

Former Titan's coach Neil Henry will join the Maroons as Bennett’s new assistant coach, replacing Justin Hodges. Picture: Phil Hillyard.
Former Titan's coach Neil Henry will join the Maroons as Bennett’s new assistant coach, replacing Justin Hodges. Picture: Phil Hillyard.

Tigers sensation Harry Grant and Dragons prop Josh Kerr have also made the squad for the first time while Manly's Daly Cherry-Evans is expected to be retained as captain.

Bennett will add to the squad progressively during the NRL finals series, with Queensland to enter an Origin bubble on the Gold Coast from October 25.

 

QUEENSLAND MAROONS SQUAD

Players no longer competing in NRL finals

Jai Arrow (Gold Coast Titans)

AJ Brimson (Gold Coast Titans)

Moeaki Fotuaika (Gold Coast Titans)

Phillip Sami (Gold Coast Titans)

Edrick Lee (Newcastle Knights)

Hymel Hunt (Newcastle Knights)

Kalyn Ponga (Newcastle Knights)

Valentine Holmes (North Queensland Cowboys)

Coen Hess (North Queensland Cowboys)

Xavier Coates (Brisbane Broncos)

Patrick Carrigan (Brisbane Broncos)

Ben Hunt (St George Illawarra Dragons)

Josh Kerr (St George Illawarra Dragons)

Harry Grant (Wests Tigers / Melbourne Storm)

Daly Cherry-Evans (Manly Sea Eagles)

Originally published as Broncos' unwanted record in Bennett's rookie Maroons squad



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