Cameron Munster delivered one of the all-time great Origin debuts for the Maroons in Game Three of the 2017 series. Photo: Darren England
Cameron Munster delivered one of the all-time great Origin debuts for the Maroons in Game Three of the 2017 series. Photo: Darren England

Munster’s warning as Maroons settle on JT fix

RUGBY LEAGUE: Storm five-eighth Cameron Munster has been warned not to let his 2017 successes go to his head as Queensland chairman of selectors Gene Miles stressed that Maroons jerseys will not be handed out to "mug lairs".

When Queensland selectors release their team for Game One this year the names Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk will both be absent for the first time since 2004 and their successors will be the subject of much conjecture until the series kicks off in Melbourne on June 6.

Given his stunning debut at five-eighth in Game Three last year many believe Munster is the frontrunner to retain the No.6 jersey but the 23-year-old's behaviour in the wake of Melbourne's grand final triumph has raised concerns within the rugby league fraternity.

An Instagram post with English cricketer Jonny Bairstow last week indicated that his abbreviated pre-season might need to be very thorough if he is to start the 2018 season at the weight he finished a 2017 coming out party that included club, state and national triumphs.

Michael Morgan (right) looks set to be one of the Queensland halves in the wake of Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk stepping down from rep football. Photo: Mark Kolbe
Michael Morgan (right) looks set to be one of the Queensland halves in the wake of Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk stepping down from rep football. Photo: Mark Kolbe

It wasn't long ago that Munster was playing for the Central Queensland Capras and Easts Tigers in the Intrust Super Cup and Miles said it was critical that the Maroons coaching staff and senior players guide him through this important stage of his career.

"Munster has gone from the Easts Tigers here in the (Queensland) comp to playing in the Melbourne system, playing for Queensland, winning a premiership with Melbourne and winning a World Cup, all in one year," Miles told foxsports.com.au.

"That doesn't happen too often.

"What's important from our perspective is how he's handled all the success.

"A lot has happened in a very, very short space of time and a lot of players handle it, and a lot of players can bring themselves undone.

Melbourne Storm five-eighth Cameron Munster poses with English wicketkeeper and Leeds Rhinos fan Jonny Bairstow. Photo: William Botoulas
Melbourne Storm five-eighth Cameron Munster poses with English wicketkeeper and Leeds Rhinos fan Jonny Bairstow. Photo: William Botoulas
"That's why you have these people around them at this important stage of their careers, the Cameron Smiths, Billy Slaters, GIs (Greg Inglis) and Matty Scotts, so if these guys look like getting in front of themselves you expect those guys to pull them straight into line.

"We don't give Queensland jerseys away to mug lairs or people who don't respect what's gone before them.

"That's why it's important we handle that part of his footy career because it can either be a very, very fulfilling career or he could undo all the good work that he's done.

"You don't want him getting carried away with what he's achieved because it can easily come crumbling down around you if you don't stay focused and do all the little things that got you there."

There are no such concerns over Michael Morgan who despite never starting in the halves for Queensland to date has all but wrapped up one of the crucial playmaking positions for the Maroons providing he is fit and available.

Seen as a future Queensland captain by Queensland officials, the absence of Thurston for the back-half of the NRL season allowed Morgan to emerge as a genuinely elite playmaker and first choice Kangaroos five-eighth.

When Munster was preferred at No.6 for the deciding game of last year's series Morgan happily accepted a role in the centres, a selflessness that Miles said is never forgotten at the selection table.

Cameron Munster shares Melbourne’s premiership win with Storm fans. Photo: Cameron Spencer
Cameron Munster shares Melbourne’s premiership win with Storm fans. Photo: Cameron Spencer
"There's no doubt this year he'll definitely cement a starting position and be a future leader for the Maroons," Miles said.

"Coming off the bench he has never shied at that option, regardless of whether he has played eight games now, seven of which have been coming off the bench.

"He's always played an important role for us for the betterment of the team and you don't forget those things."

Not since Wayne Bennett issued Origin debuts to 10 players in Game One of the 2001 series has so much new blood been injected into the Maroons line-up than the eight first-timers in 2017.

It was an overnight generational change that didn't yield a single series to the Blues and Miles indicated it is a process that must continue to ensure further Queensland dominance.

"We've got to give these guys some time with these gun players now too, which is very, very important," said Miles.

"We've got to expose them to the way these guys prepare, the way they train, the way they do everything.

"We've lost Cooper and we've lost 'JT' after last series and Nate (Myles), Sammy Thaiday. So with Cameron, Billy, GI coming back, Matty Scott, we've got to get these guys in and expose them to exactly what it's taken to have this decade of dominance."



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