CANTERBURY-BANKSTOWN dynamo Ben Barba is in line for a sooner than expected State of Origin debut in the series decider in Brisbane with a knee injury threatening to keep Billy Slater out of game three.
The Maroons fullback played on gallantly at ANZ Stadium last night after sustaining the injury in the 24th minute of the 16-12 defeat to NSW. Slater completed the game but Queensland team doctor Roy Saunders revealed afterwards that the fullback had damaged the posterior cruciate ligament in his knee. The standard length of time on the sideline for that injury is four weeks, meaning the Melbourne Storm star will likely miss Origin III at Suncorp Stadium on July 4. ''He looks like he's done some damage to his posterior cruciate ligament,'' Saunders said. ''What will happen will be that we will treat it tonight, he will return to Melbourne and Storm medical staff will then assess him. It's likely he'll then have scans to further determine the extent of the injury, and that will determine when he's fit to play.''
Saunders said the decision to leave Slater on the field for the remainder of the match had not put him at any more risk.
''It's a functional exercise. If he couldn't do what he needed to do, we instructed him that he was to come off,'' he said. ''It was a matter of him making sure he could do what he had to do, and he felt comfortable.''
If Slater does miss the Brisbane match, Mal Meninga could opt to hand a debut to young Bulldogs flyer Barba. His other main option is switching centre Greg Inglis to fullback, where he has been brilliant at club level this year for South Sydney since making the move to No.1.
The other major casualty for Queensland, replacement forward Corey Parker, was taken to hospital after suffering a cut to his leg that went to the bone. He played no further part in the game after being helped from the field in the opening minutes of the second half.
''It came from a tag and it's potentially contaminated so we've had it cleaned out and it will be repaired in theatre,'' Saunders said. ''We won't know the full extent of it until it's all dealt with.''
Maroons five-eighth Johnathan Thurston said Queensland would be desperate to retain their hold of Origin dominance and stretch their run of titles to seven years at Suncorp Stadium.
''It's mentally draining, let alone physically. It's the toughest arena, and when you lose it drains everything out of you,'' Thurston said. ''But the Blues were good tonight, they were too good and they got us in the end.''
The No.6 was at the centre of the Blues' final try to centre Josh Morris, called for a strip on Jarryd Hayne in the lead-up.
Thurston disagreed with the ruling but said it was still a try. ''I think he lost it,'' Thurston said of Hayne. ''I didn't have any contact with the ball. I didn't rake it. But he had a bit of luck with the ball - he got his toe on it at the end, so it was a try.''