Cameron Munster of the Storm.
Cameron Munster of the Storm. DAN HIMBRECHTS

Who's in the frame to replace JT for Origin decider?

HOW do you replace a legend?

That's the question Queensland coach Kevin Walters must answer in what looms as his biggest challenge yet as leader of the Maroons.

The rugby league world was rocked on Friday following the devastating news that Johnathan Thurston's chance to claim a fairy tale finish to his storied representative career had been crushed.

The veteran playmaker has been ruled out of Origin III after scans on his injured shoulder revealed he needs surgery that will end his season and the chance for the No.6 to hang his boots up with the shield in hand.

The injury is a huge blow to the Maroons' hopes of claiming the series, after they struggled in game one without him.

With the 2017 State of Origin series in the balance after Thurston kicked the Maroons home in a nail-biting 18-16 win over NSW on Wednesday, Walters must now find a replacement ahead of the July 12 decider at Suncorp Stadium.

To complicate matters, Anthony Milford, the man who replaced Thurston in the series-opener, is also sidelined with a shoulder injury.

So, could the two-letter hero known as JT be replaced by three letter man DCE?

When he was asked on NRL360 to run through his options, Walters offered up several names but Daly Cherry-Evans was a notable omission.

"Michael Morgan would be an option for us," Walters offered.

"(Cameron) Munster was the 18th man so he'd be another one for us.


Michael Morgan of the Queensland Maroons during Game 1 of the State of Origin series at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Wednesday,  May 31, 2017. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt) NO ARCHIVING
Michael Morgan playing for the Maroons. DAVE HUNT

"Corey Norman's been playing well for Parramatta, so those sort of guys. Moses Mbye is another that would possibly come into the picture, so we have some options there but there's only one little Johnny."

To compound their woes, the Maroons will also be without Darius Boyd after the fullback-turned-centre suffered a broken thumb in game two that requires surgery.

With Boyd set to miss up to six week with the injury, he's been ruled out of the decider.

Justin O'Neill could return to fill the void after a lowly performance in the series-opener, or Dane Gagai could shift from the wing, which would make for the return of Corey Oates on the flank.

But Walters indicated to Triple M that Munster was the frontrunner to make his Origin debut in the spot.

"He's played some centre at that level - very much respected among the group with his defence and the way he goes about his footy," he said.

"So he will be an option for us."


Daly Cherry-Evans of the Sea Eagles reacts to kicks a field goal in extra time during the round 13 NRL match between the Manly Sea Eagles and the Canberra Raiders at Lottoland in Sydney on Sunday, June 4, 2017. (AAP Image/Paul Miller) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Daly Cherry-Evans of the Sea Eagles. PAUL MILLER

In the halves, Munster has plenty working in his favour.

His club combination in Melbourne with Maroons No. 7 Cooper Cronk has been magnificent this season.

Considering the other key roles are filled by Storm players in Cameron Smith and Billy Slater, Walters has a ready-made spine at his disposal, although Morgan won a premiership at five-eighth in 2015 and been part of the Maroons system since 2015.

But at 28, Cherry-Evans is the most experienced option.

He has more than 150 first-grade games, 11 Tests for Australia, six Origins and a premiership to his name but has been in Origin exile since the 2015 series.

According to Maroons legend Gorden Tallis, the Manly skipper's form has to rocket him back into contention for a recall.

"His last six weeks have been outstanding," Tallis told The Late Show with Matty Johns.

"He was pretty ordinary in the first month of footy but he's starting to run the footy and Manly's luck has turned around and they're working hard for each other.

"If Cherry-Evans keeps playing the way he's playing, of course he's going to come back into contention.

"His running game is back. When Daly Cherry-Evans was at his best, his running game was sublime."