With Origin done and dusted for another year and a World Cup coming up in a few months, I think it’s time to turn our representative attention to the make up of the Australian side that will be looking to go back to back.
With Thurston suddenly unavailable and the emergence of young rep players coming through, it might be a lot different to how it would look six weeks ago. While there’s a lot of football left to play this season, this is how I’d pick the side if I had to pick it tomorrow.
After all, Origin is supposed to be a selection trial for the Australian team, isn’t it? If only.
1. Billy Slater
After two outstanding games for the Maroons, he’s earned his spot back, no question.
2. Valentine Holmes
He’s the incumbent, he’s now an Origin player and had a blinder. He keeps his spot.
3. Darius Boyd
He needs to slot in somewhere. Josh “and the play ends with” Dugan has been lucky to hold a centre spot for a while now and after a lacklustre origin series, particularly in defence, it’s time to move him on to make room for Boyd.
Boyd has spent quite a bit of time on the wing, and with Slater back it would seem natural to move him back there, but I feel that position has been earned by somebody else.
4. Will Chambers
Again, he’s the incumbent and still in great form. He stays.
5. Dane Gagai
First winger to win the Player Of The Series medal, it’s time for him to get a green and gold jersey and moving Boyd into the centres opens up a spot.
6. Cameron Munster
Here’s the big one. Who replaces Thurston in the six jersey? Before Wednesday, James Maloney would have been the obvious choice. He’s filled in there during last year’s Four Nations and was on the verge of finally winning an Origin series.
But when he was required to step up, he didn’t own it. He was on the biggest stage and blew it and one has to wonder if the same thing will happen in a (probable) World Cup Final against (probably) New Zealand.
Also, the guy’s a turnstile. Usually, that gets papered over when he’s setting up tries left and right, but it can’t be overlooked any longer. Plugging the Melbourne spine into a team seemed to work, and with so many Queenslanders around him, Munster can only build on his performance from Wednesday night.
He’s obviously the future in the six for Queensland and likely Australia, but I think the future is going to come a little bit earlier than expected.
Had Morgan played at 5/8 and had even half the game that Munster had, I’m sure he’d be picked ahead of Maloney as well. There’s still a place for Maloney in the extended World Cup Squad, but he hasn’t climbed the playmaking pecking order like he should have.
7. Cooper Cronk
He’s the Australian halfback so he obviously stays.
8. Dylan Napa
Had a quiet start to his rep career in Origin 1, but really led from the front in Game 2 and 3. after filling in for Matt Scott at Origin level, it’s now time to do the same for the Kangaroos.
9. Cameron Smith
Obviously I don’t need to write anything here to justify the selection, I just didn’t want to break up the format.
10. David Klemmer
He’s the incumbent and was New South Wales’ best forward on Wednesday night and most Wednesday nights. They had the momentum in the second half and it all went away when he went off the field, I don’t think it’s a coincidence. He keeps his spot.
11. Boyd Cordner
Had a bad night on Wednesday, but that might more have to do with being under an injury cloud and his first two games were great. He’s also an established Australian back rower and potentially the next captain (though I sure hope not) so he also keeps his spot.
12. Matt Gillett
One of the best second rowers in the game and is in no danger of being left out, not after his defensive efforts this series.
13. Jake Trbojevic
Already an Australian player and was up there with the best of the Blues this series, time to move him into the starting 13.
14. Michael Morgan
A contender for the 6 jersey, played well at centre, could probably start somewhere in the 13 for Australia but his utility value is off the charts so the 14 jersey is still his.
15. Josh McGuire
One of Queensland’s best this series, turned it around for the Maroons with a run that led to a Gagai try which ended up winning them the series, basically. Jakey T. might have the edge when it comes to starting, but he’s surely played himself back into an Australian jumper.
16. Tyson Frizell
One of the Blues’ better players, he didn’t set the Origin series on fire but hasn’t done anything to lose his Kangaroos bench spot.
17. Andrew Fifita
He started in the Anzac Test, but I think impact off the bench is where Fifita can best serve the team, especially after being outplayed by Napa in the last two games.
Now, this isn’t the first time ten of the starting 13, including the entire backline, were filled by Queensland players. The same thing happened back in 2009, so it’s not unprecedented.
You can accuse me of being a one-eyed Queenslander, but if that was the case, there’d probably be a maroon tint to my 1-17. James Tedesco, and maybe Jack Bird and Josh Jackson have earned a place in the extended squad along with Maloney, and Ferguson will probably get a spot somewhere based on his past experiences and a not-terrible Origin campaign, but I don’t think any of them have done enough to secure a spot in the first choice 17.
As for Jarryd Hayne, let Fiji have him.
NSW definitely played well in the first game and a large chunk of the second and you’d be forgiven for thinking they were on track to force their way into the Kangaroos side, but with so many Queenslanders already entrenched, the return of Billy Slater and the emergence of Gagai and Munster, well, it’s hard to fit that many NSW fullbacks into one team…