Slater out of Origin opener in another setback for Maroons

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) Veteran fullback Billy Slater has been ruled out of the Queensland lineup in another setback for the team that has dominated the annual State of Origin series for the last decade.

Slater was ruled out because of a hamstring injury Monday, two days ahead of the series-opener in Melbourne, and just hours after Queensland Maroons coach Kevin Walters had given him the all-clear to take on New South Wales in his 30th Origin game.

The Queensland squad was already without captain Cameron Smith and playmakers Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk, who have retired from representative rugby league.

”I didn’t pull up as well as I would have liked after our training run on Sunday, and because I’m not 100 per cent, it’s in my best interests as well as the team’s to withdraw from Wednesday’s game,” Slater said in a statement. Queensland also has injury concerns over halfback Ben Hunt and forward Josh McGuire.

Walters is yet to confirm who will take the starting role at fullback to replace Slater, who was voted player of the series in 2010.

”We knew we had some concerns with Billy, but he’s a champion player and we needed to give him every chance to play,” Walters said in a statement. ”We’ve had plans in place to cover Billy if he didn’t come up right.”

Queensland has won 11 of the last 12 Origin series, with New South Wales breaking the sequence with a 2-1 series win in 2014.