Anthony Milford has been named in the Maroons team to face NSW next Wednesday.
Anthony Milford has been named in the Maroons team to face NSW next Wednesday. DAN HIMBRECHTS

Broncos pair get first crack at Maroons

RUGBY LEAGUE: Kevin Walters has made the two biggest calls of his coaching career by sensationally sidelining Queensland Origin royalty Billy Slater and Johnathan Thurston for next Wednesday's series opener.

Slater's omission from an 18-man Maroons squad, despite making a successful NRL return from successive shoulder reconstructions, was the biggest in a number of bombshells from Walters.

Darius Boyd has kept the Queensland No.1 jumper in a clear nod to his standing as the best fullback in the game, potentially calling curtains on Slater's outstanding 31-Origin career.

Veteran selector Gene Miles described leaving 31-year-old Slater out of the side as the "toughest" decision in his 13 years in the job.

With Thurston considered unlikely in the extreme to line up for his 37th straight Origin appearance due to a shoulder injury, Brisbane's Anthony Milford has been named to debut in the No.6 jumper, with Thurston named as 18th man.

Cowboys teammate and incumbent utility Michael Morgan remains on the bench, with Milford still the man to drop out should Thurston prove his fitness over the next week.

Naming Milford to start sees Walters avoid a stand-off with his old Broncos coach Wayne Bennett, who had threatened to bar Milford from joining the Queensland camp if he was named in an extended squad.

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

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

Under fire pair Nate Myles and Justin O'Neill have retained their spots despite recent struggles at club level, with O'Neill's retention at centre ensuring no room could be found for Kangaroos flier Val Holmes to debut.

O'Neill and fellow backline incumbents Corey Oates and Dane Gagai, along with resurgent Storm three-quarter Will Chambers fill out the rest of the back five.

Scans have also cleared Myles of any serious damage in the knee concern that had him in doubt, though Gold Coast big man Jarrod Wallace will remain on standby should Myles not be able to take his place as pack leader.

Roosters enforcer Dylan Napa debuts up front alongside Myles, while Maroons regulars Aidan Guerra and Jacob Lillyman have been retained over the likes of boom youngster Coen Hess.

News Corp Australia

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