Ponga training scare as Maroons’ trio cleared
After a week of worry, Queensland's fitness concerns for Origin II on Sunday night are suddenly looking very different with a key trio of players ready to start at Optus Stadium.
It is understood Cherry-Evans sat out Wednesday's training session not because of his recently-operated ankle, but rather some lingering shoulder soreness following Manly's defeat of the Dragons last Sunday.
Whatever his ailment, Cherry-Evans is a certain starter for Game Two at Perth's Optus Stadium after completing a full session running Queensland's attack at HBF Park.
Superstar Kalyn Ponga caused a minor scare when he left the paddock 10 minutes early to get treatment on his left calf, but he returned to finish the session goalkicking.
Napa's broken wrist has now survived back-to-back sessions, while Gagai, quarantined for the first three days of camp with a virus, ran with the side for the first time to confirm his place on the right wing on Sunday night.
The Maroons can ill-afford to lose Napa, whose monstrous 113kg frame was called upon to replace Jai Arrow in the starting side after the Titans ironman was ruled out of Origin II with an ankle injury.
The hulking hitman will partner Queensland's senior prop Josh Papalii, who lauded Napa as the Maroons' true tough guy as he prepares for a Blues barrage with a busted hand.
"If 'Naps' says he is fine to go then he's fine to go," said Papalii, who regards Napa among his closest mates in Camp Maroon.
"We have played a lot of footy against each other and we have got the chance to finally come together at Queensland level, so that bond between us is pretty strong.
"My bond with a lot of boys in this camp is very strong, but Naps is Naps, everyone loves him."
Asked who is tougher between the pair, Papalii said: "I will give it to Napa, he is playing with a so-called broken wrist.
"He's just in a different calibre I guess with the toughness he is showing, that will give me confidence that he will be alright."
Papalii and Arrow were beginning to forge a formidable front-row union, with the pair having won two consecutive games in Queensland's engine room dating back to Origin III last year.
But without Arrow's aggression, energy and workrate, Papalii accepts the pressure is on him to step up as Queensland's front-row leader in his 14th Origin game.
"It's pretty sad that Jai is missing out on this game, to sustain that ankle injury," he said.
"In saying that I get to start with Napa and 'Moose' (lock Josh McGuire) in the middle, so we are going to go out and hopefully do the job."
Despite running for 123 metres in Origin I - the most of any Queensland forward - Papalii wasn't satisfied with his performance at Suncorp Stadium.
"I just thought I started a bit slow in Game One," he said. "I get the chance to start Game Two and hopefully I get a better start this time."