Aidan Guerra is reportedly set to be named 18th man for the Queenslanders tonight due to the expected unavailability of Sam “Third Man In” Thaiday and the poor form of Josh Papalii.
The Sunday Mail can reveal Guerra is set to be named 18th man tomorrow night as cover for Sam Thaiday (calf), who is in grave doubt for Origin I on Wednesday week.
It is understood Thaiday, who has not played since April 11, will rule himself out as early as today, a scenario that would formally elevate Guerra into the 17-man squad. But even in Thaiday’s absence, 2013 debutant Papalii is not an automatic selection and faces a make-or-break game for the Raiders against Penrith today in Canberra.
Maroons hierarchy have been impressed with Guerra’s form with the premiers, believing his toughness and rangy 103kg frame is tailor-made for Origin football. The 26-year-old Townsville junior made his NRL debut in 2010. He fought back from career-threatening leg injuries to celebrate a dream season last year, winning a premiership before representing Italy at the World Cup.
Guerra started off the bench for four of the first five games before taking Frank-Paul Nuuasala’s starting lock spot for the past five. He’s having a career year following on from that exceptional finals form he displayed in which he was perhaps the Roosters’ best forward during the charge: he scored a try in the Grand Final and a week earlier ran it for more than 200 metres with four line breaks and 12 tackle busts.
This season he’s averaging 8.6 runs and 76.3 metres a match with two tackle busts a game. He’s made just two errors and scored a fantastic try to open the Anzac Day clash. His 8.87 metres made per run are third among forwards at the club, behind just Isaac Liu and Kane Evans. He’s also averaging 30 tackles with 2.4 one-one-one tackles a game and just 1.3 misses.
Let’s just hope that he doesn’t follow in the footsteps of former Rooster and Queensland 18th man, Marty Kennedy. The front-rower was named 18th man last year but hyper-extended his knee in the game against the Bulldogs in the game prior, ruling him out for 12 weeks. He returned ahead of schedule and played during the finals series but was overlooked for selection in the Grand Final.
He then left the Roosters to join the Broncos, where he’s faced the wrath of fans and Anthony Griffin, who dropped him this week.
So, yeah. Hope that exact thing doesn’t happen again.