After the fanfare and drama of the NRL Grand Final has come to an end, the rugby league world will direct its attention to the Rugby League World Cup.
The competition kicks off with the highly anticipated battle between Australia and the old enemy, England, on Friday 27th October in Melbourne. Chances are, we will see many faces from this weekend’s Grand Final in this fixture, with many others playing for countries including New Zealand and Fiji in the weeks ahead.
In fact, an astonishing 23 players from both the Storm and Cowboys could potentially participate in the tournament. Australia will obviously be strongly represented, as will be the Queensland State of Origin team, but there is more to it than you might think.
New Zealand will be represented by the likes of Jason Taumalolo, who will be a key inclusion, especially with Kiwi national coach David Kidwell refusing to back down on his stance regarding the non-selection of would be captain Jesse Bromwich (incidentally also playing in this Grand Final) and Gold Coast Titans forward Kevin Proctor. You’ll remember them taking their loss to the Kangaroos earlier in the season so badly that they allegedly needed a snort of cocaine to get over it.
Kidwell hasn’t forgotten, and more to the point, hasn’t forgiven. Whether this will help or hinder his side is yet to be revealed. However, you would have to think that the hole left by the absence of Bromwich and Proctor will be difficult to paper over. But then, you never know with the Kiwi’s, especially when it comes to tournaments. They have a much better record in this format than one-off Test matches.
The Kiwi’s will also be without Kieran Foran as well. Cowboys fill-in five eighth Te Maire Martin could slide straight into the side and be a more than adequate replacement.
South Pacific nations will also be strongly represented this Sunday evening with representatives from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga doing their best to claim Grand Final glory. Funnily enough, so will a small yet proud nation from the other side of the world. Scotland will have two such representatives thanks to the Cowboys in Lachlan Coote and Kane Linnett. You’ve got to love the relaxed rules regarding eligibility around a World Cup, don’t you?
However, the Australian side will no doubt enjoy the lion’s share with 13 potential Kangaroos playing on Sunday night. Six players were involved in the most recent Test against New Zealand in Canberra (Smith, Cronk, Chambers and Morgan played whilst McLean and O’Neill were in the extended squad). Considering current form, at least the four who played would be automatically selected once again.
You can add Billy Slater and Cameron Munster to the “automatically selected” list while you’re at it.
Depending on the view of Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga and his brains trust, there may well be others who get a call up.
Dale Finucane has done nothing wrong and it wouldn’t surprise to see him get an opportunity. Cowboys enforcer Coen Hess wouldn’t be seen as a shock selection. Jordan McLean could also get another chance to experience what it means to be an Australian representative. You would have to think his current form would warrant his name to be thrown into the discussion at the very least.
Maybe even Tim Glasby? He donned the maroon of Queensland this season after all. Then again, he could be a stretch. Even Matt Scott’s chances of sneaking in are slim considering he probably won’t be playing this Sunday. But then, Mal can be sentimental when it comes to selecting players who have done the job for him before. And Scott definitely ticks that box.
All in all though, it is fair to say that the season will not be finishing up for many Grand Final players on the 1st of October. In fact, another chapter in their professional and personal lives is about to begin.
And despite what the result may be on the field during their Rugby League World Cup campaigns, at the end of the day, they will all be winners. Good luck to them all.
Possible Storm WC Players
Possible Cowboys WC Players
Te Maire Martin