Danny Buderus has been ruled out of Sunday's Country origin team due to injury.
Buderus, who was last night named as the team's hooker and captain, has been replaced by Melbourne's Ryan Hinchcliffe.
The injury is to his Achilles heel.
Speaking after the team was announced last night, chairman of selectors Jock Colley and coach Laurie Daley said they expected Buderus to join the camp and play the game.
But behind the scenes Country officials were concerned the 34-year-old former Newcastle, Country, NSW and Australian skipper would not front and would withdraw from the team.
Buderus’s inclusion, and the snubbing of Kade Snowden by Australian and Country selectors, overshadowed the naming of Knights Aku Uate and Darius Boyd on the wings for Australia, and Jarrod Mullen at halfback and James McManus on the wing for Country.
Back-rower Chris Houston, a starter for Country last year, was selected as 18th man.
Country selectors ignored the advice of Knights coach Wayne Bennett and Buderus.
Bennett has led the push for Buderus to be excused from the game, saying an in-form player of his age and stature should not have to participate to prove he deserves selection for the State of Origin series.
Buderus has made it clear he does not want to play.
Blues coach Ricky Stuart reportedly contacted incumbent Michael Ennis and contender Robbie Farah last week to tell them Buderus, who captained the Blues for a record 18 straight games from 2003 to 2008, had his nose in front for the NSW No.9 jersey.
Buderus, who could not be contacted last night for comment, was quoted in a Sydney newspaper yesterday saying that he had planned to have next weekend off to rest.
‘‘I have done what is required [in the past], but this time I need to put my club and myself first,’’ Buderus said.
‘‘I need to get away and use this bye the best I can. I’m not disrespecting anyone with this decision.
‘‘I came back here and the representative stuff wasn’t on my radar. I came back here to be a Newcastle Knight.
‘‘Next week we have a week off and, for me, having it off and getting away from football is going to be more beneficial. I have told the people that need to be told that for me to be able to play next week won’t be good for me at my age.’’
There was speculation yesterday that Buderus, even though he wants to play Origin, might even retire from representative football rather than be forced to play for Country.
But is it understood that whatever penalty Buderus might face if he refused to play for Country, it would be unlikely to include being barred from other levels of representative football this year.
Country officials are expected to push for some penalty if Buderus withdraws.
Normally, if a player who has not been granted an exemption from rep football refuses to play in such a game, he is barred from playing that week for his club, but there is no club round next week on what is a rare stand-alone representative weekend.
Asked last night what penalty Buderus might face if he withdrew, Australian Rugby League Commission media and communications director John Brady said: ‘‘I don’t think we should get into a ‘what if’ discussion. He’s been selected, so we’ll leave it there at this stage.’’
Daley, who is also one of the Country selectors, said he had no qualms about picking Buderus, adding: ‘‘Our job is to pick the best team, and Danny certainly fits that criteria. Whatever happens tomorrow, happens.’’
Knights chief executive Matt Gidley said last night that he had not spoken to his former Newcastle, Country, NSW and Australian teammate since last Friday.
‘‘He’s gone away with his family for the weekend,’’ Gidley said. ‘‘I don’t know what his thoughts are but we will find out tomorrow when they convene. The players all had the weekend off ... so I’m not sure what he’s going to do, but he’ll have to make that decision tomorrow.’’
Boyd played fullback and Uate on the wing for Australia in their 30-8 victory over England in the Four Nations final at Elland Road in Leeds last November but the return of Billy Slater, who missed that match due to a broken collarbone, forced Boyd to the wing for the Anzac Test against New Zealand at Eden Park in Auckland on Friday night.
Playing for Cronulla, Snowden made his Australian debut in the corresponding Test last May, then started at prop for NSW in Origin I but did not participate in the rest of the series.
Timana Tahu was considered but Country selectors preferred fellow internationals Josh Morris (Bulldogs) and Matt King (Rabbitohs) in the centres, almost certainly ending Tahu’s hopes of an unlikely Origin recall for NSW.
Mullen is expected to recover from the corked thigh he suffered against the Dragons to take his place for Country. McManus will line up for his second game in Country colours after making his debut in 2009, the year he made his only appearance for NSW.