Star duo ready for State of Origin return
KEVIN Walters has given Queensland fans the news they want to hear - Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater are on track to play in State of Origin II.
Thurston missed the first-game defeat at Suncorp Stadium with a shoulder injury, while Slater was left out of the 17 by coach Walters.
Walters said Thurston, who could play for the Cowboys this weekend, was a good chance to recover in time to face NSW in Sydney on June 21.
"I'd say at the moment he's probably 70-30% of playing," Walters said.
If he doesn't make this week's clash with Parramatta, Thurston could go into the must-win Origin showdown without playing a game since injuring his shoulder against New Zealand in the Anzac Test last month.
Walters said there was still some fitness work for 34-year-old Thurston to do, but said he would be happy to see him back in at five-eighth despite Anthony Milford's "tremendous" performance in Brisbane in game I.
"He's not over the line as yet. He's got to do some more stuff around his rehabilitation in Townsville," Walters said.
"He's hopeful of playing (for North Queensland) this weekend. If he plays this weekend and comes through, then that's no dramas."
Walters said Slater had also done his chances of a recall no harm with a great game for the Melbourne Storm in its win over the Newcastle Knights on Friday night.
"There's no concern with Billy Slater," the Queensland coach said.
"We've just seen him get better and better.
"That's what we hoped would happen with Billy. He's right back in the frame now for game II."
Walters also backed Coen Hess for a Maroons berth despite the North Queensland youngster's comments doubting his readiness.
He put Hess' self-doubts down to modesty.
"So I think he was just being a little bit humble, which is a good sign because you don't want to be throwing yourself out there that you're the next big thing in Origin," Walters said.
"That only brings you undone, doesn't it?"