Speculation that Test winger Valentine Holmes will replace incumbent Corey Oates in the Queensland side has left Wayne Bennett scratching his head.
Brisbane speedster Oates will get a final chance to impress Maroons selectors before they name their team for the May 31 series opener when he runs out against Wests Tigers in Friday night’s NRL clash.
Oates made his Origin debut last year, playing all three games as Queensland claimed their 10th series win in 11 years.
However, there is talk Holmes has leapfrogged Oates in Maroons coach Kevin Walters’ pecking order after featuring in the trans-Tasman Test after impressive form at fullback for second placed Cronulla.
Much to Brisbane coach Bennett’s surprise.
“I can’t get my head around that if that is the way they are going to go,” he said.
“He (Oates) is the best carrier in the game in traffic of anyone on the wing.
“Queensland have got him so I don’t know why they would want to substitute him.”
Bennett believes Oates is more important than ever for Queensland with prop Matt Scott (knee) and retired lock Corey Parker unavailable this year.
“Holmes is a very talented player but he doesn’t carry the ball (like Oates),” he said.
“In Origin when yards are hard to come by, and they have lost Matt Scott, a guy like Corey Oates is ideal for them.”
Bennett hoped the Maroons maintained their successful loyalty policy and stuck with Oates when they named their team on Monday.
“It (incumbency) does mean a bit in Queensland’s history,” he said.
“And I believe he has played his best footy he has played for us this year.
“I am not disappointed with the way he is playing.
“Everyone in the game knows he is hard to tackle when he carries the ball.
“There is so much upside to him I can’t get my head around why they wouldn’t pick him.”
Meanwhile, Bennett said Anthony Milford would travel with the Broncos for their next round clash with the Warriors even if the playmaker was named on Queensland’s game one extended bench.
Milford is expected to be named as 19th man as cover for recovering pivot Johnathan Thurston (shoulder).
Bennett said Milford would only enter Queensland’s camp if named in the 17.
“If he is not in the 17 he is coming with us to New Zealand, absolutely,” he said.