Big Mal’s even bigger stuff up

Greg Prichard Columnist

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    Sam Thaiday has every right to be upset he didn’t receive a phone call from Australia coach Mal Meninga to tell him he’d missed out on the squad for the World Cup.

    No-one was expecting Thaiday to make the squad – and the player himself wasn’t suggesting be should have been picked – but that’s not the point.

    Thaiday was not some short-term or occasional international. He played a whopping 34 Tests, going way more than a decade. He represented his country in 2006 and then every year from 2009 to this year.

    It was reported Meninga rang Blake Ferguson to tell him he had missed out on the squad and Ferguson has only been playing Test football since last year.

    I don’t know, but I suspect it was the news Ferguson had received a phone call, when Thaiday hadn’t, that prompted the Broco to vent his frustration on social media last night.

    The Brisbane forward’s message went this way:

    “Aussie Aussie Aussie… No, No, No. So it’s official – the end of my 2017 rugby league year. Who would’ve thought this year would be the last time I played for both Queensland and Australia. A bit of respect would’ve been nice… to at least receive a phone call and learn about selection that way instead of through a leaked report from the media on last night’s news. After dedicating more than 10 years wearing the Maroon and Green and Gold jersey, you’d expect to be treated with a bit more decency and respect. I guess not. Lucky I have one more year left at the @brisbanebroncos unless someone wants to shatter that dream too. What a rollercoaster of a year – Peace out 2017”

    Hopefully, Meninga will realise he should have rung Thaiday and will contact him to admit that, with the aim of patching things up.

    Thaiday was never going to make the squad. He is 32 and was dropped from the Queensland team after their loss to NSW in State of Origin 1. Other players have overtaken him.

    But he was a mainstay for the Maroons under Meninga’s coaching before continue to play for Australia in the first two years of Meninga’s tenure there.

    As far as actual selection shocks in the actual 24-man squad go, James Tedesco should have been included. Meninga explained that Manly Tom’s Trbojevic got the nod based on versatility, and I get that, but even allowing for Trbojevic’s form this year there should have been a spot for Tedesco in the squad.

    Even if it meant Darius Boyd missing out.

    Based on a combination of form this year and going back to previous years, Melbourne’s Billy Slater and Tedesco are the two best fullbacks in the NRL.

    Trbojevic played 23 games this season for a side that made the finals, scoring 12 tries and running for an average of 189.6 metres per game. Plus, he made 24 line-breaks, had 19 try assists and 18 offloads.

    Tedesco played 21 games for a struggling team, scored five tries and averaged 175.1 metres. He made 12 line-breaks, had eight try assists and 34 offloads.

    Boyd played 20 games for a top-four side, scored three tries and averaged 109 metres. He made four line-breaks, had seven try assists and seven offloads.

    Australia should comfortably win the World Cup with the squad they have named, but Tedesco was unlucky and so was another player who missed out – Canterbury forward Josh Jackson.

    Thaiday simply deserved a heads up about his omission, based on how well he has worn the jumper for so long. That wasn’t too much to ask.

    UPDATE: Mal Meninga has now apologised to Thaiday. Read more here.

    Greg Prichard
    Greg Prichard

    Greg Prichard has spent all of his working life in the media, from way back when journalists were still using typewriters. He has covered rugby league, football, AFL and various other sports for News Limited and Fairfax newspapers and also worked for magazines, radio and pay television. Twitter: @gregprichard