Ahead of the announcement of the Australian Test squad to play New Zealand at GIO Stadium on May 5, the NRL.com team has come up with the Kangaroos side we would select.
These selections were made with incumbent five-eighth Johnathan Thurston still under an injury cloud, with many of the NRL.com team selecting James Maloney at five-eighth as cover.
Tony Webeck - Chief Queensland Correspondent
1 Darius Boyd, 2 Corey Oates, 3 Michael Jennings, 4 Joey Leilua, 5 Dane Gagai, 6 Johnathan Thurston, 7 Cooper Cronk, 8 Andrew Fifita, 9 Cameron Smith (c), 10 Aaron Woods, 11 Boyd Cordner, 12 Matt Gillett, 13 David Klemmer, 14 Michael Morgan, 15 Josh Papalii, 16 Shannon Boyd, 17 Josh McGuire.
Because I loathe picking players out of position it's time for specialist right centre Joey Leilua to earn his first Kangaroos jersey and left centre Michael Jennings nabs the other side. Given his efforts for Newcastle Dane Gagai is the my other debutant and because he has played right wing for Queensland I don't consider this positional double-standards on my behalf. Can't see how Mal Meninga can leave Andrew Fifita out now and James Maloney is my insurance policy if Johnathan Thurston is not declared fit to play.
Chris Kennedy - National Correspondent
1 Darius Boyd, 2 Tom Trbojevic, 3 Will Chambers, 4 Joey Leilua, 5 Valentine Holmes, 6 James Maloney, 7 Cooper Cronk, 8 Josh Papalii, 9 Cameron Smith, 10 Aaron Woods, 11 Boyd Cordner, 12 Matt Gillett, 13 Jake Trbojevic. Interchange: 14 Michael Morgan, 15 Wade Graham, 16 David Klemmer, 17 Sam Thaiday.
With Greg Inglis out I have Will Chambers returning and the in-form Joey Leilua on standby at right centre for Josh Dugan, who only returns from injury this weekend. I've overlooked Blake Ferguson on form for Tom Trbojevic. With Thurston still battling a calf injury James Maloney is the in-form partner for Cronk in the halves. Michael Morgan's incumbency gets him the utility nod over a host of tantalising options. Trent Merrin's form slump sees him overlooked for Jake Trbojevic. Wade Graham's red-hot form sees him displace Tyson Frizell, who has battled injury of late. With too many in-form back-rowers compared to props, Josh Papalii starts up front.
Martin Gabor - National Correspondent
1 Darius Boyd, 2 Blake Ferguson, 3 Josh Dugan, 4 Will Chambers, 5 Valentine Holmes, 6 Johnathan Thurston, 7 Cooper Cronk, 8 Andrew Fifita, 9 Cameron Smith (c), 10 Aaron Woods, 11 Boyd Cordner, 12 Matt Gillett, 13 David Klemmer, 14 Michael Morgan, 15 Josh McGuire, 16 Tyson Frizell, 17 Shannon Boyd.
Injuries have forced several changes to the squad with Will Chambers coming in for Greg Inglis while Andrew Fifita earns a Kangaroos recall in place of Matt Scott. It's hard to see Trent Merrin retained on current form, so I've moved David Klemmer to lock, with Josh McGuire joining the bench. James Maloney is on standby for Johnathan Thurston.
Alicia Newton - National Correspondent
1 Darius Boyd 2 Blake Ferguson 3 Josh Dugan 4 Jarryd Hayne 5 Valentine Holmes 6 James Maloney 7 Cooper Cronk 8 Aaron Woods 9 Cameron Smith 10 David Klemmer 11 Boyd Cordner 12 Josh Papalii 13 Jake Trbojevic 14 Michael Morgan 15 Tyson Frizell 16 Matt Gillett 17 Andrew Fifita.
The biggest area I struggled with was left-centre with stocks low in the Australian side due to the loss of Greg Inglis. Players like Will Chambers, Justin O'Neill and Dane Gagai all play on the right and should come into calculations but I went with Jarryd Hayne despite only just returning from injury. This Test match will be a World Cup warm-up and Hayne has been there and done it before in the centres for Australia and can adapt to either side. I couldn't find a place for incumbent Trent Merrin after a disappointing start to the year for the Panthers, or Raiders prop Shannon Boyd. I expect Billy Slater to be in the mix later in the year for the World Cup.
Corey Rosser - New Zealand Correspondent
1 Billy Slater, 2 Darius Boyd, 3 Blake Ferguson, 4 Josh Dugan, 5 Valentine Holmes, 6 Johnathan Thurston, 7 Cooper Cronk, 8 Shannon Boyd, 9 Cameron Smith (c), 10 Aaron Woods, 11 Boyd Cordner, 12 Matt Gillett, 13 Trent Merrin. Interchange: 14 Michael Morgan, 15 David Klemmer, 16 Tyson Frizell, 17 Jake Trbojevic
Coach Mal Meninga has already said he will remain loyal to those players who got the job done for him in last year's Four Nations, so I'm predicting just one unforced change to the Kangaroos' line-up. Billy Slater gets the nod at fullback, which sees Darius Boyd move to the wing and Blake Ferguson to the centre spot made vacant by the knee injury to Greg Inglis. Matt Scott's unavailability means Shannon Boyd starts at prop with Jake Trbojevic taking a bench spot.
Adrian McMurray - Presenter/Producer
1 Billy Slater, 2 Darius Boyd, 3 Blake Ferguson, 4 Josh Dugan, 5 Valentine Holmes, 6 James Maloney, 7 Cooper Cronk, 8 Shannon Boyd, 9 Cameron Smith (c), 10 Aaron Woods, 11 Boyd Cordner, 12 Matt Gillett, 13 Jake Trbojevic, 14 Michael Morgan, 15 Sam Thaiday, 16 David Klemmer, 17 Tyson Frizell.
With Greg Inglis unavailable I think the selectors will recall a fit-again Billy Slater, pushing Darius Boyd to the wing and Blake Ferguson to the centres. Shannon Boyd is a chance of taking Matt Scott's starting spot, with Jake Trbojevic starting at lock and Sam Thaiday joining the bench.
Dominic Brock - Production Editor
1 Darius Boyd, 2 Blake Ferguson, 3 Will Chambers, 4 Josh Dugan, 5 Valentine Holmes, 6 Johnathan Thurston/James Maloney, 7 Cooper Cronk, 8 Shannon Boyd, 9 Cameron Smith (c), 10 Aaron Woods, 11 Boyd Cordner, 12 Matt Gillett, 13 Jake Trbojevic. Interchange: 14 Michael Morgan, 15 David Klemmer, 16 Tyson Frizell, 17 Josh Papalii.
Darius Boyd keeps Billy Slater out of the Kangaroos side for now but I expect Slater to get the Maroons No.1 jersey by State of Origin time, while James Maloney slots into the five-eighth spot if Johnathan Thurston is out. Jake Trbojevic replaces the out-of-form Trent Merrin at lock while Josh Papalii joins the side with Matt Scott out.
Andrew Bryan - Deputy Editor
1 Darius Boyd, 2 Blake Ferguson, 3 Will Chambers, 4 Josh Dugan, 5 Valentine Holmes, 6 Johnathan Thurston, 7 Cooper Cronk, 8 David Klemmer, 9 Cameron Smith (c), 10 Aaron Woods, 11 Boyd Cordner, 12 Josh Papalii, 13 Matt Gillett, 14 Michael Morgan, 15 Trent Merrin, 16 Tyson Frizell, 17 Shannon Boyd.
Don't expect too many surprises in this Test match with Mal Meninga set to stay loyal to the team that did the job in the Four Nations. I'd love to see Jarrod Croker given a chance in the vacant centre role, but think the experience of Chambers will win out. If Johnathan Thurston declares himself fit, he'll play. Otherwise James Maloney is a more than capable understudy. Josh Papalii has more than earned his place back in the team with powerful performances for the Raiders, with Michael Morgan set to play the utility role off the bench. Trent Merrin is down on form, but think he'll still be in the team.
NRL.com's combined Kangaroos team
- Darius Boyd
- Blake Ferguson
- Will Chambers
- Josh Dugan
- Valentine Holmes
- Johnathan Thurston
- Cooper Cronk
- Shannon Boyd
- Cameron Smith (c)
- Aaron Woods
- Boyd Cordner
- Matt Gillett
- David Klemmer
- Michael Morgan
- Tyson Frizell
- Jake Trbojevic
- Josh Papalii
This article first appeared on NRL.com