Lockyer admits to feeling pressure as Maroons selector
DARREN Lockyer waged war for Queensland in 36 Origin appearances.
More recently, he's been fighting battles on a very different front for his state.
As a selector, the 40-year-old is no less passionate about the Maroons' cause than when he was captain and star five-eighth.
Along with Gene Miles and coach Kevin Walters, they are charged with picking a combination they believe can beat New South Wales.
But it's a job that comes with a high level of scrutiny - usually from their "own".
Particularly this year.
First there was the non-selection of the legendary Billy Slater for game one, with Darius Boyd preferred at fullback.
And this week there's been criticism after the selectors overlooked the in-form Daly Cherry-Evans, be it for five-eighth or a spot on the bench, for Wednesday night's series decider at Suncorp Stadium.
"For a long time the selectors weren't really talked about a lot because the team never changed, we were winning," Lockyer told News Regional.
"Now we're going through a bit of a transitional phase, it (selection) has created a lot of debate.
"I guess you just draw on your experience as a player. You know what's required to win at that level, and you use that to make judgments."
Of course, you can't fit everyone into a 17-man combination - "unfortunately some good players miss out", says Lockyer.
One of those is the Sea Eagles skipper Cherry-Evans, who was looking to add to his two Origin caps.
But Lockyer has extreme confidence in Storm's Cameron Munster to do the job at No.6 in the absence of sidelined superstar Johnathan Thurston, and also defended the decision to include Ben Hunt, who only last month was dropped by the Brisbane Broncos.
"He's a footballer, there's no doubt about that," Lockyer said of Rockhampton product Munster.
"He was always destined to play for Queensland at Origin.
"With Thurston being injured and (Anthony) Milford not there, he's got an opportunity.
"He played a big game against Brisbane the other night.
"Three guys were going for the one position in (Michael) Morgan, Munster and DCE.
"Once the decision was made to go with Munster in the halves then we had to find that replacement for Morgan on the bench ... Hunt was a better fit."
Lockyer admitted the Maroons would miss the experience and class of former teammate Thurston, who has been denied an Origin send-off before his retirement from representative football due to a shoulder injury.
"You can't replace him, it's as simple as that," he said.
"Just those little touch shots, that puts a lot of doubt in the (opposition) defence's mind, be it his kicking game or his passes.
"It's a big loss."
Regardless, Lockyer said he had total faith in his successor as Queensland skipper, Cameron Smith, who took over in 2012, to direct whoever is under him in a Maroons jumper. There just happens to be five of his Storm teammates.
"You just know that whatever team you bring together, if Cameron Smith's there leading it is going to play well," he said.
Asked if there was one player from the Blues line-up he would like on his side, Lockyer thinks for a moment.
It's not an easy question for a man with maroon running through his veins to answer.
"There's a lot of things to like about a lot of them," he said.
"But James Maloney ... even though he's a bit cheeky at times he's just a winner. He's a player that really wherever he goes success seems to follow him.
"He's one player we need to do a good job on Wednesday night."
Lockyer will take his selector's hat off on Wednesday and replace it with a Channel Nine commentary cap, reporting from the sideline.
"I don't get carried with emotions too much anyway but I always say to myself I'm there to represent Channel Nine. I've got to tell it how I see it.
"But it's good to have some friendly rivalry between the commentators.
"I try not to be too biased ... but just deep deep down hope we get the job done."