Smith Retirement Opens Door for Stagg
by Michael McLucas by
Wednesday April 27, 2005

The sudden retirement of Jason Smith from representative football presents David Stagg with a huge opportunity at a spot in Queensland's starting 13 to face the Blues on May 25. Even though he wasn't named in Queensland's 22-man preliminary squad, Stagg could well be Queensland's "bolter" for 2005, but he isn't without other players in his way.

Dallas Johnson's naming in the 22-man squad is justified by his form playing for Melbourne this season. Both he and Stagg are similar players, with no experience at the representitive level of the game and so it will all come down to who wants it more.

Both players only came onto the scene in 2004, with Stagg notching up an NRL record for the most tackles in a game for one player with 59 (vs Sharks). Dallas Johnson was arguably the Man of the Match in the Qualifying Final against the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium last year. Both players have achieved a lot in their short time in the game.

There is absolutely nothing between the players. Only a year of age difference, 5kg of weight and 1cm of height.

If you look at the stats between the two players, there is also very little between them.

Stagg - 2 tries, 3 points, 258 tackles, 1 try assist, 1 line break, 59 hitups.
Johnson - 0 tries, 0 points, 213 tackles, 0 try assists, 0 line breaks, 67 hitups.

Very little between the two there, maybe with Stagg slightly on top. There is no denying that the youngsters are very talented and hard-working footballers. There will only be one way to decide who will get a spot out of the two and that is their form over the next 3 weeks leading up to the State of Origin Series. However, I would include them both in the team, Stagg in the second row and Johnson on the bench.

This is the Queensland side I would name for Game 1.

1. Matt Bowen
2. Billy Slater
3. Brent Tate
4. Shaun Berrigan
5. Matt Sing
6. Darren Lockyer
7. Scott Prince
8. Steve Price
9. Cameron Smith
10. Petero Civinoceva
11. Brad Thorn
12. David Stagg
13. Tonie Carroll
14. Carl Webb
15. Ben Ross
16. Jonathon Thurston
17. Dallas Johnson

I originally went for Wesser at fullback with Bowen off the bench, but Wesser still makes me nervous when I tip the Panthers. I think Matt Bowen has done more than enough to deserve a starting spot at fullback, and Jonathon Thurston would be perfect off the bench.

Brad Thorn's successful return from Rugby Union makes him a certainty in the second row, and there is plenty of power up front with Price and Civinoceva. Add to that a workhorse in Stagg and one of the hardest hitters in the game in Carroll, with Carl Webb and Ben Ross off the bench and you have one hell of a forward pack.

The backline is a near certainty in my opinion. Prince showed last year that he is more than capable of playing halfback in the Maroon and he will surely be well guided by the brilliant Darren Lockyer. The Lockyer-Tate-Berrigan combination will be very hard for the Blues defence to handle.

Sensational speedstar Billy Slater will always be creating havoc on the flank and the ever-reliable Matt Sing will not let Queensland down.

That's a good side I reckon, certainly the best way we can level the overall Series tally between the Maroons and the Blues.

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