Just when you thought you were out, the Rugby League pulls you back in.
Melbourne showed why they were the best team all year with a convincing win over the ever courageous Cowboys last Sunday. With many questions still to be answered about their two stars Cronk and Slater, we mustn’t forget there is still a world cup to navigate. And before it has already been kicked there is controversy.
Controversy 1 – The side is leaked
Is nothing sacred anymore? 24 hours before the press conference, major news sites managed to get their hands on the team list and leak it.
In an age where every news source needs to be first and everyone is looking for a scoop or an angle, the leaking of the side did nothing more than just deflate the entire press conference.
It should be an honour for a player to have their name read out in public so their fans can hear it.
Where Meninga is trying to build integrity and culture back into the game at a national level, leaking the side just undermines everything he is trying to achieve.
Some news outlets that claim to be on the ‘side of the game’ should take a look at themselves.
Controversy 2 – Ben Hunt
No sooner does a coach announce his team when punters rally.
Let’s face it Australia could probably take three teams into the world cup and win with any one of them. However when you are trying to fit potentially hundreds of players into a squad of 24, you can’t please everyone. But Hunt’s inclusion is rather puzzling.
Yes he can play hooker or halfback. But Meninga has named 5 pivots in his squad (including Hunt). And worse case if you lose Smith for any reason, Morgan can fill in at Hooker or McGuire.
Secondly if you want a back up hooker why not Peats (the NSW incumbent), or Jake Granville.
The reality is Hunt is just not in good form and Meninga apparently follows the philosophy of picking your best players and fitting them into the squad.
Controversy 3 – Flyers left out
Addo-Carr, Tedesco, Roberts and Mansour. All players who had blistering back ends of the season. All players overlooked. You can’t argue Trbojevic’s inclusion. But you can argue Boyd’s.
Boyd is not only carrying an injury into the campaign he has been pushed to the wing in favour of Clive Churchill medalist Slater. It was always going to happen.
But with Boyd out of his preferred position there are much better (and quicker) outside backs. There is no substitute for pure speed and of the above you’d have to say Josh Addo-Carr is very unlucky.
Controversy 4 – Mal Meninga calls on form
The other loser in all this is Blake Ferguson. In a new look squad, Ferguson has been omitted with Meninga citing form as the reason for his omission.
If you are selecting on form it’s hard to see how Dugan gets a start over a player like Roberts. Or how Aaron Woods makes the side over a Paul Vaughan.
No matter your opinion on the squad no one is ever going to fully agree on positions. The reality is that form aside, the team Meninga has picked is still world class.
They still have arguably the best spine to have ever played in combination with one another (Thurston aside). And come a months time they will take some beating.
Maybe just give them the cup now.
Kangaroos squad: Billy Slater, Darius Boyd, Will Chambers, Dane Gagai, Tom Trbojevic, Josh Dugan, Valentine Holmes, Cooper Cronk, Cameron Munster, Michael Morgan, James Maloney, Aaron Woods, David Klemmer, Josh McGuire, Andrew Fifita, Jake Trbojevic, Jordan McLean, Boyd Cordner, Matt Gillett, Tyson Frizell, Wade Graham, Felise Kaufusi, Cameron Smith, Ben Hunt.