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Brimson No.1 option to replace Ponga as Fifita ruled out of series

With Kalyn Ponga unlikely to be available for next month's State of Origin series, AJ Brimson is set to be one of several fresh faces in Wayne Bennett's squad to face NSW.

Moeaka Fotuaika, Tino Fa'asuamaleaui and Lindsay Collins are also set to earn their first Maroons jerseys when Bennett returns to the Queensland fold after Kevin Walters relinquished the reins last week when he became Broncos coach.

Maroons coach Wayne Bennett is preparing to give several in-form rising stars their Origin debuts, as he did in 2001 when Queensland blooded 10 debutants in the opening game of a series they won 2-1.

Ponga will consult with a specialist surgeon on Thursday about whether to go under the knife immediately to repair a labral tear in his left shoulder, which would rule him out of this year's series.

With Cowboys star Valentine Holmes unavailable for Origin I due to a shoulder charge suspension, Brimson is set to assume Ponga's fullback role.

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Broncos forward David Fifita, who is Titans-bound next year, has a syndesmosis injury and was ruled out on Tuesday by Gold Coast medicos of playing any part in the series.

The Maroons already have Michael Morgan, Corey Oates, Anthony Milford and Kyle Feldt ruled out due to injury.

Brimson has fully recovered from a back fracture that ruled the 22-year-old out for the first half of the season but in the final nine rounds he made 13 line breaks and scored seven tries in a purple patch of form.

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Brimson would be the ideal candidate to replace Ponga, according to inaugural Queensland fullback Colin Scott - who was part of the Queensland Rugby League's launch of the Deadly Maroons Indigenous team of the first 40 years on Tuesday to acknowledge the contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players in the Origin era.

"He would be the perfect choice for Queensland and I would pick him," Scott told NRL.com.

"I am sure Wayne will mix it up with experience and young blokes like Brimson.

"AJ has the speed and the right thought process for a fullback, just with the way he gets himself involved in the game and it is vital for a fullback these days to look for opportunities at all times.

"In Origin it will be good for Queensland with Brimson sniffing around the play the ball area and on the back of the plays."

Brimson has also impressed Scott with his talk in the defensive line, an area of his game where Maroons mentor Billy Slater has been an inspiration and guide.

Maroons fullback candidate AJ Brimson.
Maroons fullback candidate AJ Brimson. ©NRL Photos

"Billy Slater is the best fullback that has played for Queensland in my book so he couldn’t have a better mentor," Scott said.

"The job of a fullback these days is all about communication from the back and I am looking forward to watching Brimson do that job."

The Maroons are on the lookout for centres with last year’s first-choice pairing unavailable due to Morgan being ruled out with injury and Will Chambers now playing rugby union.

Former Maroons centre Steve Renouf said Dane Gagai, a winger for most of his Origin career, should play in the centres as he does for Souths, with Storm centre Brenko Lee also in the frame.

"Dane has played in the centres so he will be one. Outside of that it is hit and miss, even without the injuries that we have had," Renouf said.

"[Lee] has been playing some great footy and if the Storm keep going in the finals series then he is definitely a contender."

Tino Faasuamaleaui has been part of the Emerging Maroons program.
Tino Faasuamaleaui has been part of the Emerging Maroons program. ©NRL Photos

Maroons team manager Petero Civoniceva said the front-row stocks were looking strong and is tipping Fotuaika, Fa'asuamaleaui and Collins to make their debuts.

"Those three players have been in fantastic form for their respective clubs and you would love to see them take that next step," Civoniceva said.

"They have definitely put their hands up and I am really excited to see some new blood come into the side and pull on that Maroons jumper for the first time.

"There have been a lot of injuries so I think there will be a lot of excited debutants who will get the opportunity to play State of Origin.

"Having Wayne Bennett come in you couldn’t have a better person to rally the troops to play with the spirit that you need to play with in that Origin arena."