Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
Since Cameron Smith retired from representative football, the Queensland State of Origin side have failed to replace the former Australian captain with a permanent hooker.
While both Andrew McCullough and Ben Hunt have displayed that they can be two of the best number nine’s in the game when playing for their club, they haven’t really been able to take their game to the next level for an entire Origin series.
Fast forward to now and Queensland can boast three hookers who are in red hot form and will continue to battle it out for the role of the Maroons dummy half at season’s end.
The oldest and most experienced hooker out of the three is Jake Friend.
It can be argued that if not for injury Friend would have been Queensland’s dummy half for the 2019 State of Origin series.
The 30-year-old has remained an integral part of a Roosters side that has won three premierships and four minor premierships over the past 10 years.
Although during this period has not made his Origin debut in large part due to Cameron Smith being ahead of him and more recently injury.
Friend would bring great stability to the Queensland hooker role as a result of his big game experience and presence of leadership.
If the Maroons want a player that best fits the Cameron Smith mould in the nine, then Jake Friend will be the way to go.
Then you have Reed Mahoney, who has a breakout season in 2019 and is maintaining that blistering form in 2020.
Mahoney’s best asset is his defence, making the most tackles of any NRL player in 2019 with 1221.
Defence is emphasised in Origin and has a bigger impact then it does in a regular season club game, meaning Mahoney could prove an invaluable member of the Queensland Origin lineup in 2020.
Last but certainly not least young Harry Grant from the Wests Tigers.
Grant has played just seven first grade games and is currently secondly on the Dally M Medal leaderboard with 11 points.
He may be the game’s most inexperienced hooker but at the time of writing Harry Grant is the NRL’s form hooker and despite a short stint in the NRL thus far the 22-year-old is already being backed by many to play Origin.
These three are certainly not making Kevin Walters and the Queensland selectors jobs any easier.