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The Roar


Meninga tosses up surprise positional switch for Walsh at Kangaroos - and voices support for besieged Tedesco

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16th August, 2023
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Reece Walsh’s versatility has the Brisbane fullback in the frame for Australia’s squad for the upcoming Pacific Championships, with coach Mal Meninga saying being prepared to “play 13” will help the Bronco’s cause.

Kangaroos mentor Meninga said Australia’s World Cup-winning captain James Tedesco is likely to retain his position at No.1 for the end-of-season Tests against New Zealand and Samoa. 

But Meninga is a big fan of Walsh and what the 21-year-old can bring to the table.

Newcastle fullback Kalyn Ponga came off the bench and played in the middle of the park as a roving lock in his Queensland debut in 2018, while Melbourne custodian Ryan Papenhuyzen filled a similar role for the Storm early in his NRL career.

“Versatility is really key for picking squads for the Kangaroos,” Meninga said at Wednesday’s launch of the Pacific Championships in Brisbane.

“Reece can play fullback and I know he can play in the halves as well. It will be interesting to see whether he can put his head in the scrum and play 13, because that is what you need.

“You need a player who plays 14, or a player who sits on your reserves (bench) who can play a number of positions.


“That will be spoken about at the selectors’ meeting, but (Walsh) is certainly putting pressure on being in the team itself. So is Dylan Edwards and Kalyn Ponga … and Ryan Papenhuyzen is coming back. 

“There are plenty of fullbacks around who can play a number of positions.”

Queensland No.1 Walsh outplayed his NSW counterpart Tedesco in this year’s State of Origin series and has had a bigger influence in club football this year than the Sydney Roosters skipper.

Meninga said he admired the level Walsh’s game had gone to but backed Tedesco to remain first-choice fullback for the Kangaroos.

James Tedesco of the Blues is tackled during game one of the 2023 State of Origin series between the Queensland Maroons and New South Wales Blues at Adelaide Oval on May 31, 2023 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

James Tedesco. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

“Teddy is the incumbent. He is the captain of the Kangaroos,” Meninga said.

“He led the team to a successful World Cup last year. He has been going well all year. His effort levels are great. 


“We have got a couple of other selectors but in my mind he is the number one fullback at the moment and out of loyalty he should be selected.”

Meninga said form, loyalty and performances at representative level would all be taken into account when picking his side to play Samoa in Townsville on October 14 for the Pacific Championships opener.

“I don’t believe that playing right through the finals series puts you in a better place than if you get knocked out in the bottom nine,’ Meninga said.

“The rest could do some people good. If you are talking (about) Teddy … if he gets to have a bit of a spell for a number of weeks he will come back a better player and more refreshed and looking forward to playing in the green and gold jersey.”