Matty’s Ponga-Milford ‘conspiracy theory’ to rock Origin I
KEVIN Walters' decision to elevate the out-of-form Anthony Milford into Queensland's bench utility role at the expense of Kalyn Ponga took many by surprise and Matthew Johns has revealed his very own "conspiracy theory" that might explain the Maroons' thinking.
As he analysed a Queensland side supposedly in crisis on game day of the series opener, Johns raised the fitness battle of Ben Hunt as a possible explanation for Milford's selection before taking his theory a step further.
"Let's talk conspiracies now, maybe they're hiding the fact that maybe Ben Hunt's leg's not right, maybe Anthony Milford's going to start and Kalyn Ponga's going to start on the bench," Johns said on Triple M's The Grill Team.
"All these things, all these little nuances, and as we said, this is part of the game.
"I'm not saying these players aren't injured, they are injured, but there's some ducks and drakes.
"You remember last series, influenza, a bug went right through the camp. Suddenly half their players were in doubt.
"Guess what? They all played."
Hunt struggled through his last two club games for the Dragons with a corked thigh, finishing their Round 12 loss to the Panthers on an exercise bike on the sideline.
The injury has been a big talking point since Hunt was selected to succeed Cooper Cronk in the Queensland No.7 jersey and while Walters is adamant the halfback is fit to play, Johns sees Milford's selection on the bench as "Plan B" if Hunt's not quite right.
"Milford's been put onto the bench, Ponga's been made 18th man," Johns said.
"It's Kevvy's decision, that's the thing, and he's opted for more depth in the halves and more to the point he's opted for a Plan B in the halves because Ben Hunt has struggled with this leg injury the last two outings.
"He's got a really bad cork, he limped around two starts back for the 80 minutes.
"Last start back against Penrith he didn't finish the game, he finished the game on the exercise bike on the sideline.
"Now Kevvy obviously has concerns with Ben Hunt's leg injury so he's gone for Anthony Milford."
If Hunt is ruled out Ponga would be brought into the side and would likely start on the bench, with Michael Morgan at fullback and Milford in the halves alongside Cameron Munster.
However Johns also expressed fears for Dane Gagai's ability to overcome a finger injury and start the game, saying compound dislocations feel worse 24 hours after they happen.
While Gagai could be in severe pain in the lead-up to kick off, Johns said a painkilling injection would give him a chance of taking his place.
Johns said he had been given a jab of local anaesthetic in his hands before the majority of his games at the back end of his career due to the roughly 20 broken bones he suffered playing footy.
The injections got him through the 80 minutes but the injuries still impact his life today.
"I don't like this time of year, my hands ache in the cold," Johns said.
"I've got ladies hands and I broke my hands I reckon 20 times during my career.
"So most of the back end of my career every game I'd get a local (anaesthetic) in my hands. You literally don't feel anything till after but I'm paying for it now."