Queensland and Australia skipper Cameron Smith believes Anthony Milford has "a little bit to go'' before making his State of Origin debut, despite Maroons coach Mal Meninga declaring he's a selection hope this year.
While he was narrowly outpointed by Queensland No.1 Billy Slater in the fullback battle in Canberra's 24-22 win over Melbourne on Sunday, it is believed Milford may be one injury away from breaking into the Maroons side.
Queensland is shooting for a ninth straight series victory this season and that success, plus its traditional loyalty to incumbent players, means few changes are expected.
Meninga said last month the 19-year-old was in his plans, and the NRL's new rules to speed up the game would make the fleet-footed youngster a dangerous bench weapon.
Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans was bench utility for the Maroons in the final two games last year, and will again be Queensland's first-choice option. He is also on Australia coach Tim Sheens' radar for October's Four Nations, but Storm hooker Smith warned he may have to bide his time.
"He's had some good games this year so far, but I still think he's got a little bit to go to be considered for a number one jersey in the Queensland team,'' Smith said.
"We've got Billy Slater there at the moment, he's the Australian fullback and Greg Inglis as well, we're pretty well covered there. He's a very explosive and dynamic player, but he's only a young guy and we're lucky to have a lot of quality young guys coming through in various positions.
"I think down the track [he will play], and certainly Tony is on the radar of the Origin side.''
Asked if his pace and footwork could prove a nightmare for a tiring Blues pack coming off the bench, Smith said: "He could, but that's up to the coaches and selectors of what they think is the best team dynamic.
"We've also got [Roosters hooker] Jake Friend who's been involved in the system for a long time as well. At the moment we've got a very solid team, and barring injury I don't think it's going to change too much from last year.''
That would be good news for Raiders backrower Josh Papalii, who made his Origin debut for Queensland in games two and three last season, before going on to play for Australia in the World Cup final.
Papalii aggravated an ankle injury against Melbourne, but played on under duress in the second half to help Canberra to victory. He ignored the pain to run to the other side of the field to hold up Storm winger Sisa Waqa in a crucial play.
"I was definitely in a lot of pain, but that pain I don't feel any more because of the win,'' he said. "I had to go over there, if the outside men shoot out, it's our responsibility to cover.
Papalii said he would be fit to play against Manly at Brookvale Oval on Sunday, and said Test match selection was the furthest thing from his mind.
NRL round eight: Manly Sea Eagles v Canberra Raiders at Brookvale Oval, 2pm
TV: Live on Fox Sports