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Slater backs Cobbo to become world-class centre

Joe Gould -

Billy Slater insists Brisbane's Selwyn Cobbo can become a world class centre, which makes for a welcome headache at the Queensland selection table.

The 21-year-old Bronco has impressed the Maroons coach with his transition from wing to centre in the NRL, particularly in his last two games against Melbourne and the Dolphins.

Dolphins flyer Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow (hamstring) is racing the clock to be fit for the State of Origin series opener in Sydney on June 5.

Tabuai-Fidow played centre in all three games for the Maroons last year but will miss four to six weeks after suffering a grade two hamstring tear in the 28-14 loss to the Broncos.

Cobbo, who has played four Origins on the wing for Queensland, could slot in. He was man of the match with a try-scoring double in the win over the Dolphins last week.

"To be honest I think Selwyn's position is in the centres. He is a versatile player and has done a great job on the wing but I think he can be a long-term world class centre," Slater told AAP.

"It is a position defensively that requires a lot of work and preparation with every play but you could see the class against the Dolphins.

"Even the week before against the Melbourne Storm (in a 34-32 loss) the Broncos could have easily won that game on the back of some of the plays Selwyn put on."

Brisbane coach Kevin Walters's switch of Cobbo to centre could be a blessing for both the Broncos and Maroons. Slater said 33-year-old Newcastle centre Dane Gagai, who has played 22 Origin games for Queensland, was also in the frame.

North Queensland's Valentine Holmes is a certainty at centre for game one if fit.

"Val and Hammer (Tabuai-Fidow) were centres last year and now there is some depth starting to be developed in that position which is great," Slater said.

"Dane Gagai is there as well. Selwyn is going to get better the more he plays there. It is a position that a few years ago we didn't have a whole heap of depth. Now we are starting to accumulate some depth."

Cobbo plays on the left for the Broncos alongside No.6 Ezra Mam who is also a Queenslander. Mam was invited into the Maroons' pre-season camp.

"Centre is a position where you can go and get yourself in the game but the more you build a combination with your half on that side of the field the better you chances are of getting clean ball," Slater said.

"Selwyn is going to continue that with Ezra Mam."

Cobbo, who missed the last two Origin games in 2023 with a hip injury, is ready for any challenge Slater gives him.

"Anyone would love to play Origin. If I get selected I will do my job for the team and the state," Cobbo said.

"My head is with the Broncos now but if I get the call-up I will play my part in Origin."

Joe Gould - AAP

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