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Forget the 'merit team', this will be our new-look Kangaroos side

Boyd Cordner of Australia celebrates a try during the 2017 Rugby League World Cup final. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
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17th July, 2018
21

It has been a year Maroons supporters would rather forget, with their Origin team thudding back to earth after a series loss.

At halftime at Suncorp, there must have been thousands of Queenslanders getting ready to turn their TV sets off and punch some walls, after the Blues went into the sheds with an incomprehensible lead.

But whatever Kevin Walters said in the dressing rooms, the Maroons came charging back into the game – aided by a ridiculous penalty count it must be said.

It was a classic State of Origin game. In fact, it’s one of the best series I can remember. Overall though, the little moments mattered, and NSW won more of them.

Looking at the makeup of the next Kangaroos squad, surely more NSW players will be present. That said, a few days ago the three men who picked Billy Slater as player of the series selected a so-called ‘merit team’ for the upcoming Kangaroos series, and Slater’s name bobbed up again – which is rather odd when the bloke announced his retirement from rep footy, and had far less influence in the series than James Tedesco.

If we’re picking players to represent Australia based on current form, then a lot of Queensland players who were a shoe-in 12 months ago are now a boot-out.

Let’s start with the non-starters. It’s goodbye to Darius Boyd, who said he was retiring from rep footy about two weeks after being dropped from the Queensland side. We also know Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater have all decided to call it a day on rep footy.

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So who’s playing for Queensland that is currently playing better football than their NSW counterpart? Not many is the short answer.

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Let’s start with fullback. You’ve got to pick Tedesco, who was one of the standouts in the Origin series.

Of the wingers, Tom Trbojevic had a terrific series and continually made breaks through the weak Queensland defence. In fact, Brad Fittler thought he was unlucky not to get player of the series. I’d also go with the electrifying Josh Addo-Carr on the other wing, who is seriously quick and a very good finisher.

In the centres, my pairing is Josh Dugan and Latrell Mitchell, who completely had it over Will Chambers for most of the Origin series.

At five-eighth I’d pick both James Maloney and Cam Munster, but with Jimmy starting.

James Maloney of the Panthers

James Maloney of the Panthers (AAP Image/Michael Chambers)

Halfback Daly Cherry-Evans had a blinder in Origin 3 under all sorts of pressure. He’s my most unexpected starter.

At lock, you can’t go past Jack De Belin, who gets through a mountain of work, and while he rarely makes a bust he rarely misses a tackle.

At second row, let’s start with Blues skipper Boyd Cordner. What a warrior – I’d make him captain of the Kangaroos after NSW won the series. His partner is the super quick Tyson Frizell, who would be even more damaging if he learnt to run straighter at the line.

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At hooker, is there anyone disputing Damien Cook? What a champion and what a series for NSW.

David Klemmer is a beast and has to be one of the props, and I’d pick Josh McGuire as the other, as he’s a tough nut.

On the bench, I like the versatility of Ben Hunt, while I’d also have Cameron Munster, who did nothing wrong. Tariq Sims made some errors but hits like a Mack Truck, while the mercurial Kalyn Ponga had a terrific game in Origin 2.