Walters concerned over Maroons No.9 spot

Broncos hooker Andrew McCullough is under pressure to keep his Queensland Origin jumper.
Broncos hooker Andrew McCullough is under pressure to keep his Queensland Origin jumper.

Not only will Queensland coach Kevin Walters have to find a new captain for this year's State of Origin series, but he could be searching for a new hooker.

Walters admits being concerned with the form of incumbent rake Andrew McCullough over the early part of the year, and hinted at calling on Jake Friend.

McCullough has been part of a Brisbane side that has won just one of its opening five games, putting him in danger of losing his Maroons jumper.

Asked on Big Sports Breakfast on Monday whether hooker is his currently biggest selection headache, Walters said: "I think so, for sure.

"It's been a position that we haven't really filled correctly since the retirement of Cameron Smith. It was only last Origin series where he left.

"Andrew McCullough did a really good job for us last year in games one, two and three, and at the moment this year he's been struggling with the Broncos."

Walters nominated Friend as a possible solution, however the Roosters co-captain has only played twice this year due to a shoulder issue.

He played all 80 minutes in their round-one loss to South Sydney, was absent in game two, and lasted just 33 minutes in round three against Parramatta.

"Jake Friend is one that finished off really strongly last year with the Roosters, and then started this year well," Walters said.

"He hasn't played, either. I'm not sure if he's back this week. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks he'll find himself back on the field.

"So they're our two major hookers, and guys that can influence the team.

"I'd like to see those boys - certainly Jake Friend - back playing to the ability we know he can, and also Andrew McCullough lifting himself along with a few other Broncos players."

Walters also insisted being well covered for captaincy candidates should Inglis announce his retirement from the game on Monday due to injury.

Walters said there would be a number of players who could step into the role, particularly those who lead their club teams.

Halfback Daly Cherry-Evans is the only current NRL captain who was played in their game three side last year.

"If Greg doesn't decide to play on, we've got some good options," Walters said.

"There's 3-4 guys that I would think - there's even some club captains of their respective NRL teams - that are playing some good footy in the NRL.

"So we'll wait and see what Greg comes up with."

Australian Associated Press