Sport

Maroons a more dangerous outfit with Billy: ex-Blues utility

HE'S BACK: Billy Slater during the Queensland State of Origin team training session on the Gold Coast.
HE'S BACK: Billy Slater during the Queensland State of Origin team training session on the Gold Coast. DAVE HUNT

RUGBY LEAGUE: Ex-Blues utility Scott Hill believes Queensland has a much more dangerous line-up for game two of this year's State of Origin series, especially with Billy Slater at fullback.

Selectors rang in seven changes to the squad which was thumped 28-4 in the opener three weeks ago.

Some returned stars and some enthusiastic debutants are set to lace up for the Maroons when it meets the Blues at Sydney on Wednesday.

"It's a far better side. They needed to make those changes and I think the changes they have made are pretty good ones," Sunshine Coast-based Hill said.

The inclusion of 34-year-old Slater is most notable. He's been named at fullback, with Darius Boyd moved to the three-quarter line.

"I think Billy's a massive in, defensively and in attack," Hill said.

"He just adds that factor. Darius has been good but he's not Billy Slater. He makes you think differently."

Hill played with the latter more than a decade ago at Melbourne Storm.

"When it comes to crucial plays he's as good as he's ever been," Hill said.

"He's shown that in the last six weeks since he's come back (from injury).

"He's consistent (and) he's far more dynamic in what he does and is very smart about how he plays.

"He doesn't get his body smashed up too much; is smarter with offloads to his wingers taking it into traffic.

"Defensively he is another voice and attack wise...he makes the right choices.

"He (also) takes Cooper Cronk's game to another level."

The probable return from injury of half Johnathan Thurston should also help the Maroons' cause.

"With JT and Billy there, that takes a lot of pressure off Cooper and Cameron (Smith). They will share the load really well," Hill said.

And the Queensland pack, which was overwhelmed last time, will have a new look.

"There's a couple of good young forwards who have been doing really well," Hill said.

"(Coen) Hess has been outstanding for the Cowboys and (Tim) Glasby is a guy that will get the numbers and do everything right. He's been dominant for the Storm and consistent."

But Hill still thinks New South Wales should claim its first series triumph since 2014, providing the side plays as well as last month.

"I think the main reason they won game one was they didn't give Queensland anything at all.

"If they do everything they did in game one they will win."

Slater was born at Nambour and was a young ball boy at Noosa Pirates, where his father played.

Topics:  billy slater scott hill state of origin 2017


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