YOUNG Roosters hitman Dylan Napa could be pitched into battle against New South Wales in next Wednesday's State of Origin opener after Queensland ruled out Daly Cherry-Evans yesterday just hours after he was named in coach Mal Meninga's 17-man squad.
North Queensland's Michael Morgan was on standby for Cherry-Evans, but Meninga hinted strongly that if the Manly halfback was ruled out he would seriously consider going with four big boppers on the bench to counteract the Blues, who named four forwards on their interchange.
Cherry-Evans had scans in Sydney yesterday before joining his Queensland teammates in Brisbane and being ruled out last night.
Napa, who has played more than 40 games for the Roosters, including the 2013 NRL grand final, told APN he was struggling to come to terms with being around so many great players, but would be "definitely ready to go" next Wednesday night if Meninga gave him the call-up.
"It's pretty crazy being amongst so many great players ... the likes of Greg Inglis, Billy Slater, Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith - it's just crazy to be on the same page as those guys," the 22-year-old said.
"I do feel a bit out of place with so many great players, but I am just soaking it all in."
He joked that his aggression and desire to whack players might have stemmed from being bullied as a young, red-haired kid.
"It's second nature and the way I like to play," said the Brisbane-born back-rower, who escaped the clutches of the Broncos to sign with the Roosters when he was just 17.
"Maybe it's the way Dad taught me and encouraged me a little bit," he said, before adding with a laugh, "he (dad) reckons he was pretty tough (as a player), but he's got no (video) footage so I don't believe him."
Napa has definitely inherited his father's toughness.
Stan Napa, a Cook Islander and worker at Brisbane's Rocklea produce markets, was an intimidating front-rower with a long judiciary record, and part of Kiwi Graham Lowe's 1980 Brisbane premiership side, which was led by Mark Graham and Mark Murray.
Meninga, who played against Stan Napa, had a surprise waiting for his players when they entered camp, breaking the news he had re-signed as Queensland coach until the end of 2018.
"He never mentioned it. We found out the same time as you guys (media)," Inglis said.
"All the players respect him and hold him in high regard. He is one of the former greats of the game and to be coached by him, I am truly blessed."
Billy Slater, Darius Boyd, Greg Inglis, Justin Hodges, Will Chambers, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Matt Scott, Cameron Smith, Nate Myles, Sam Thaiday, Aidan Guerra, Corey Parker. Int: Michael Morgan/Dylan Napa, Josh McGuire, Matt Gillett, Jacob Lillyman.
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