Moses Mbye’s Queensland debut has taken on greater significance after revelations he was set to be dropped to the bench by the Wests Tigers just a few days prior to his Origin selection.
NRL.com understands Tigers coach Michael Maguire had decided to axe Mbye from fullback before the round 11 game against South Sydney, only for the skipper to be ruled out of through injury later that week.
It’s a decision that could have significant ramifications, potentially placing Mbye’s captaincy in question and his position at the club altogether, depending on how he responds.
With the Wests Tigers trying to move a number of players on to make room for possible recruits, the news of Mbye’s near relegation will test the relationship between club and skipper.
“It was an emotional week,” Mbye told NRL.com after his teary celebrations on Wednesday night.
“It was a rugby league rollercoaster. At one point there I was told I wasn’t even going to be in the starting side for the Tigers, then I was injured, then I was in the Queensland side.”
With the Tigers actively pursuing New Zealand skipper Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, the recent doubt around Mbye’s position in the team is expected to create even more tension throughout a roster already uncertain about its future.
Maguire has a very high opinion of Watene-Zelezniak and is keen to lure the out-of-favour Panther to the club after he was granted permission by Penrith to negotiate elsewhere.
Maguire made Watene-Zelezniak fullback and captain of New Zealand last year, but both these roles are filled by Mbye at the Tigers. Josh Reynolds’s future is under a cloud given his injury toll in recent years, while Russell Packer and Elijah Taylor have been actively shopped around in recent weeks.
Watene-Zelezniak still has about $250,000 on his deal for the remainder of the year at the Panthers, with just over $500,000 for his final year of his contract next season.
He has met North Queensland coach Paul Green, however the Eels’ interest in him has somewhat diminished over the past week.
The Cowboys had also been in discussions with Melbourne’s Scott Drinkwater, however those discussions have also been put on hold given the Storm were hopeful of landing a front-rower from the Cowboys in a swap deal to cover for the departure of Canterbury-bound forward Joe Stimson.
The Tigers have denied they are shopping Mbye, however the skipper has had plenty of time to think about his future during his time in camp with the Maroons.
Mbye’s family, and his partner’s family, live in Queensland, making a move back to Brisbane or the Gold Coast appealing to the Tigers skipper if he was to find himself on the outer in the coming weeks. He is being paid by the Bulldogs and the Tigers after making the switch to the joint venture club midway through last season.
It is understood Maguire had informed Mbye of his intention to leave him out of the run-on team at the start of the week leading into the match against South Sydney.
Mbye then picked up a groin injury 24 hours before kick-off which ruled him out of the game at ANZ Stadium.
Three days later he was on a plane to Brisbane to join the Maroons in camp after getting the nod over Anthony Milford to make his State of Origin debut at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday.
Mbye, who had a slow start to the year but hit form over the last month to be rewarded with a spot on the bench for Queensland, has been named in the Wests Tigers No.1 jersey for Friday night’s Bankwest Stadium clash with Canberra.