Now that the NRL season has concluded, our attention moves on to the Rugby League World Cup and Australia’s campaign to be played out in Great Britain and France over the next two months.
Australia will be looking to avenge their World Cup Final 34-20 defeat to New Zealand on 22nd November 2008 in Brisbane. This time around there will be no Benji Marshall who’s off to rugby, but they will have to deal with Sonny Bill-Williams after his return to the game after walking out on the Bulldogs in 2008.
There’s no doubt the Australian team is aided by a strong National Rugby League competition and an intense State of Origin series. But questions have been raised in some media outlets about how unified this 2013 World Cup squad will be. And this in part has had to do with the success of Queensland in their unbroken eight year domination of the Origin series.
I’m certain that each player no matter what jersey they wear during the season will be united in trying to win back the trophy. There will be extra fire in the bellies of Billy Slater, Greg Inglis, Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith and Paul Gallen who represented the Kangaroos on that embarrassing night in Brisbane five years ago.
What I will find fascinating is the role that Manly half back Daly Cherry-Evans will play in the competition. Clive Churchill Medal winner on a losing team capped off a great finals series where he went to a new level in his individual performance. Cooper Cronk deserves his place at starting number seven and was heralded the best player in the NRL in 2013 by winning the Dally M Medal. Right now on form Cherry-Evans should be starting.
Tim Sheens surely will have to find space for both of these players in the seventeen man squad.
Having said that Sheens is one to stick with the players who’ve proved themselves at International level but I hope he looks towards the future.
Boyd Cordner is a fresh face to International Rugby League but no one can deny the highly rated twenty-one year old from Old Bar on the NSW north coast his inclusion in this side isn’t warranted. Returning from injury on Grand Final day and being part of a successful Sydney Roosters campaign surely will give Cordner a place in the starting seventeen too.
Josh Papalii having chosen his allegiances to be with the Kangaroos could be the x-factor coming off the bench. He proved his worth for Queensland during this year’s Origin series with his barnstorming runs at the heart of the New South Wales defence. You’d have to consider Papalii for the first up game at Millennium Stadium. The English won’t know what’s hit them.
The Australian Kangaroos have it all in front of them and there’s a high level of expectation that the World Cup will be returned. It all starts in thirteen days time against what will be an improved England side with Sam Burgess the headline act.
AUSTRALIA: Greg Bird (Gold Coast Titans), Darius Boyd (Newcastle Knights), Daly Cherry-Evans (Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles), Boyd Cordner (Sydney Roosters), Cooper Cronk (Melbourne Storm), Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers), Andrew Fifita (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks), Paul Gallen (Cronulla Sutherland-Sharks), Jarryd Hayne (Parramatta Eels), Greg Inglis (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Michael Jennings (Sydney Roosters), Luke Lewis (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks), Brett Morris (St George Illawarra Dragons), Josh Morris (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Nate Myles (Gold Coast Titans), Josh Papalii (Canberra Raiders), Corey Parker (Brisbane Broncos), Matthew Scott (North Queensland Cowboys), Billy Slater (Melbourne Storm), Cameron Smith (Melbourne Storm), James Tamou (North Queensland Cowboys), Brent Tate (North Queensland Cowboys), Sam Thaiday (Brisbane Broncos), Johnathan Thurston (North Queensland Cowboys)