Origin battle: Wallace out to prove he deserves Maroons jersey

Gold Coast prop Jarrod Wallace hopes a heart-to-heart with Kevin Walters and five weeks of strong performances for the Titans will be enough to retain his place in the Queensland team.

Still burning for not showing what he believes he is capable of in three Holden State of Origin appearances last season, Wallace returns to face the Cowboys in Townsville this Friday having served a two-week suspension for a shoulder charge.

He will go head-to-head with fellow Queensland aspirants Josh McGuire, Matt Scott, Coen Hess and Gavin Cooper and will also likely face the challenge of stopping Jason Taumalolo in his return from injury.

Making his debut in Origin II of 2017, Wallace was seen as a cornerstone on which to build the next generation of Maroons representatives but he was widely criticised for his output in the first two games last year.

He amassed just 52 metres in 35 minutes in Origin I and 43 metres in 28 metres in game two, laying a better platform in the series finale with 82 metres off the bench in the 18-12 victory.

The 27-year-old is desperate to prove to Walters and Maroons supporters that what they saw last year is not indicative of what he can bring to the team.

Maroons prop jarrod Wallace.
Maroons prop jarrod Wallace. ©Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

"I want it more now than I did before I had the jersey," Wallace told NRL.com.

"If anything, I just want to make that first game to prove myself that I can do a better job.

"Obviously last year isn't a reflection of me personally and I know that I can do a lot better job.

"I had a bit of a chat with Kevvie at the end of last year about the game and I told him I've got a lot more to offer and a lot more to add to the team. He knows that and I definitely know that.

"Now I've got to get out there and play five games to the best of my ability to put my best foot forward and hopefully be in the running for it."

Wallace was outstanding in his first season as a Titan, averaging 135 run metres per game, 50 metres a game more than during his final season at the Broncos.

It showed Queensland selectors that he had the fitness and tenacity to handle State of Origin but a candid Wallace conceded last year he lost sight of what got him there in the first place.

"I probably thought I was in a better position than I was," Wallace said. "Fitness-wise and playing wise.

"I took it all a bit for granted. I enjoyed it so much that I lost track of the purpose that I was there for.

"I was loving being around the boys and being in the Origin arena and I probably lost track of me personally and the job I had to do."

Whether the Maroons selectors show faith in Wallace remains to be seen.

I want it more now than I did before I had the jersey

Jarrod Wallace

NRL.com understands key Maroons officials were not impressed by the way Wallace conducted himself last year and are not yet convinced he deserves to hold his place in the squad.

Josh Papalii and Jai Arrow are all but guaranteed to be two of Queensland's middle forwards with Josh McGuire's experience and performances in an under-performing Cowboys team likely to earn him a 12th Origin appearance.

The fitness of Bulldogs prop Dylan Napa will have a major bearing on whether Wallace earns selection with Broncos prop Joe Ofahengaue, Cowboys veteran Matt Scott, Melbourne's Christian Welch and incumbents Coen Hess and Tim Glasby the others on Walters' watch-list.

Given the depth of competition, an assignment against the Cowboys could be exactly what Wallace needs to advance his chances that little bit more.

"I'm so pumped. I feel like I've been out for eight weeks and it's only been two weeks," Wallace said.

"It's a good test going up to Townsville and play against McGuire and Thumper [Scott]."