Lockyer tells Chambers to aim up or face axe
Queensland centre Will Chambers is playing for his Origin career with Maroons hierarchy urging him to muscle-up to NSW rival Latrell Mitchell or risk being dropped for next season.
The three-quarter battle between Chambers and Mitchell shapes as one of the most influential positional subplots of this year's series heading into Origin I on Wednesday night at Suncorp Stadium.
While Chambers is one of the code's most accomplished outside backs, the Maroons ace was given a torrid Origin workover by Mitchell, who on Wednesday outlined his desire to be "the best centre in the world".
That represents a chilling warning for Chambers, who missed 13 tackles in last year's series, including eight in Queensland's 22-12 loss in Game One when Mitchell ran riot at the MCG with a staggering 13 tackle busts.
Chambers, who turned 31 last Sunday, will be in the firing line if he produces another below-par Origin campaign and Maroons selector Darren Lockyer challenged the Storm veteran to rise to the occasion in Game One.
"Will Chambers has to aim up," Lockyer said. "It's fair to say Latrell got the better of him not only in last year's Origin series, but in the grand final as well (won 21-6 by the Roosters).
"I think Will has shown much better form for the Storm this season but Mitchell will take confidence from last year's series.
"Will is now a senior player in the Maroons set-up so it's important he repays the faith of the selectors and plays with leadership."
Maroons assistant coach Justin Hodges, one of Queensland's greatest backline weapons who played 24 Origin matches, believes Chambers will be motivated by replacing the retired Greg Inglis as the side's No.1 centre.
"Will was a little bit off and he would openly admit that but this year I have seen a change in Will with the way he has played," Hodges said.
"Will is very competitive. He has obviously learned from myself and 'GI' (Inglis) and being in that system and waiting for us to retire.
"Now he has become the No.1 centre in the Queensland outfit.
"You've seen him for Melbourne switching sides (from right to left) this year and there are not too many centres that can do that the way he has and be so successful.
"I don't know if it's so much redemption (for Chambers this year). I thought last year Latrell was at his height. He was having one of those seasons where everything he did turned to gold.
"Will doesn't have all that push and shove in his game this season and he is just focused on what he needs to do.
"Next Wednesday night is going to be no different. He just has a job to do against Latrell."
Hodges advised Chambers not to try and win a battle of strength with Mitchell.
"I think you have got to go low to stop him," he said.
"I remember marking up against GI and every time you used to go up top he would just palm you away. I watched a few games where guys went low and chopped Latrell's legs off and that is where we will try and aim.
"Will has got to go out there and get it done. It is not as easy as it sounds but Will has just got to be aggressive."