10th November 2020, 14:00 | nrl
League great Andrew Johns has compared Queensland rookie Xavier Coates with Warrington-bound superstar Greg Inglis and the Port Moresby-born teen’s State of Origin debut has prompted fears in Papua New Guinea that the Kangaroos may poach him for the World Cup.
Coates, who last week joined Wigan coach Adrian Lam and former Hull KR forward Neville Costigan as the only Kumuls to have played State of Origin, starred in Queensland’s 18-14 defeat of NSW in Adelaide and will be aiming to help the Maroons claim the series at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday.
The 19-year-old, who played for PNG against Samoa last year, scored Queensland’s first try as they fought back from a 10-0 halftime deficit to upset the Blues following an inspired talk by former England mentor Wayne Bennett at the interval.
“He reminds me of Greg Inglis,” Johns said. “Physically, he looks like Greg Inglis and in that era of dominance when Queensland needed to score a try it was always Inglis who scored and I reckon Xavier Coates could be a similar player. He can just a try at the right time.”
Nicknamed “Little GI” by his Broncos team-mates, Coates grew up idolising Inglis and former Kumuls captain David Mead.
However, he also dreamed of representing Papua New Guinea at the Olympic Games and with a string of Queensland school track and field records it may have been a possibility had the speedster not decided to stick with league.
He represented Papua New Guinea in the 2019 mid-season Oceania Cup Test against Samoa before making his NRL debut for Brisbane against Cronulla two weeks later and has barely looked back since.
Kumuls coach Michael Marum said the interest in the code had gone to another level in league-mad Papua New Guinea after Justin Olam helped Melbourne win the NRL grand final against Penrith and Coates starred for Queensland in Origin I.
However, Marum was concerned that Australian coach Mal Meninga, who is assisting Bennett with the Queensland team, may try to entice Coates to turn his back on the Kumuls and play for the Kangaroos at next year’s World Cup in England.
“I am a bit concerned now that Mal might pick him in the Kangaroos squad but it’s really up to him,” Marum said. “We picked him in the 2019 Test match against Samoa in Sydney and we didn’t get the result we wanted but he played well and there was a lot of focus on him.
“We didn’t know if it was the right time for him to come in but he was a really good young player who respects everyone - the coaches and the players - and is really humble in camp with the senior players.
“When he made his debut for the Broncos his father sent a message to Marcus Bai saying can you thank Michael for picking Xavier for the Kumuls. He is playing NRL now. For him to be playing Origin now is an incredible achievement.”
Both NSW and Queensland have made a number of changes for Origin II, with Blues captain Boyd Cordner withdrawing from the series amid concerns over his long term health following another head knock in Adelaide and five-eighth Luke Keary being dropped.
NSW interchange forward Cameron Murray was also injured, along with Queensland fullback AJ Brimson and prop Christian Welch, while Bennett has dropped second-rower Coen Hess.
Blues coach Brad Fittler has recalled Cody Walker in place of Keary at five-eighth, while former Italy representative Nathan Brown and Dale Finucane were named on the bench.
Valentine Holmes returns from suspension in place of Brimson at fullback for Queensland and Dunamis Lui will partner his Canberra team-mate Josh Papalii in the frontrow, with Moeaki Fotuaika called onto the interchange bench.
Up to 40,000 fans will be in attendance for the match and with border restrictions due to COVID-19 it will be a parochial NSW crowd hoping to see the Blues level the series and keep alive their hopes of retaining the State of Origin shield for a third consecutive year by winning in Brisbane next week.
1. James Tedesco (c) (Sydney Roosters)
2. Daniel Tupou (Sydney Roosters)
3. Clint Gutherson (Parramatta Eels)
4. Jack Wighton (Canberra Raiders)
5. Josh Addo-Carr (Melbourne Storm)
6. Cody Walker (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
7. Nathan Cleary (Penrtih Panthers)
8. Daniel Saifiti (Newcastle Knights)
9. Damien Cook (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
10. Payne Haas (Brisbane Broncos)
11. Angus Crichton (Sydney Roosters)
12. Tyson Frizell (St George Illawarra Dragons)
13. Jake Trbojevic (Manly Sea Eagles
14. Dale Finucane (Melbourne Storm)
15. Junior Paulo (Parramatta Eels)
16. Nathan Brown (Parramatta Eels)
17. Isaah Yeo (Penrith Panthers)
Coach: Brad Fittler
1. Valentine Holmes (North Queensland Cowboys)
2. Xavier Coates (Brisbane Broncos)
3. Kurt Capewell (Penrith Panthers)
4. Dane Gagai (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
5. Phillip Sami (Gold Coast Titans)
6. Cameron Munster (Melbourne Storm)
7. Daly Cherry-Evans (c) (Manly Sea Eagles)
8. Dunamis Liu (Canberra Raiders)
9. Jake Friend (Sydney Roosters)
10. Josh Papalii (Canberra Raiders)
11. Felise Kaufusi (Melbourne Storm)
12. Jaydn Su’a (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
13. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui (Melbourne Storm)
14. Ben Hunt (St George Illawarra Dragons
15. Lindsay Collins Sydney Roosters)
16. Jai Arrow (Gold Coast Titans)
17. Moeaki Fotuaika (Gold Coast Titans)
Coach: Wayne Bennett