Well the State Of Origin series is over and the next representative football we will be looking forward to is the end of season Four Nations competition held in England and France.
The World Champion New Zealand team will be looking to stamp themselves as the best in the world while Australia will be looking to restore their place in the pecking order, they won’t just want to win this thing, they will want to dominate it.
There has been a lot of worries about the strength of the French and English sides. I personally think France will do a little better than most expect but I think England will be terrible.
Looking at this competition from an Australian perspective, we need to look at what we did wrong in the World Cup. We need to look at selecting the very best players available, keep an eye on building for the future, and select players that opposition teams will find tough to shut down.
I have selected a 22 man squad below with all that in mind. It is a long way out, and yes, things will change, but if you had to select a squad now, this would be mine. Take a look through and I’ll explain my selections after:
League Freaks Australia Squad – 2009 Four Nations
1. Billy Slater
2. Jarryd Hayne
3. Greg Inglis
4. Justin Hodges
5. Israel Folau
6. Darren Lockyer (C)
7. Jonathan Thurston
8. Steve Price
9. Michael Ennis
10. Ben Hannant
11. Anthony Whatmough
12. Trent Waterhouse
13. Dallas Johnson
14. Craig Wing
15. Justin Poore
16. Sam Thaiday
17. Ben Creagh
18. Josh Morris
19. Darius Boyd
20. Tom Leroy Lahrs
21. Kurt Gidley
22. Brett White
I think the outside backs pretty much pick themselves. Its a ridiculous backline, it is one of the most athletic I can remember seeing assembled.
In the extended squad you have Josh Morris, who can play win or center, and Darius Boyd, who can play on the wing or at fullback, so you are well covered as far as injuries go.
In the halves, once again, I don’t think much needs explained. Lockyer plays for Australia as long as he puts his hand up as far as I’m concerned and Thurtson is brilliant at Test level.
I’ve selected Craig Wing on the bench, mostly as a replacement hooker, but he could come into the halves if injury strikes. I also reluctantly selected Kurt Gidley as a backup half in the extended squad, I would only call on him in that situation though.
The forwards are where we start having a few interesting selctions.
Petero Civoniceva is out for the season through injury, so he won’t be available. Steve Price and Ben Hannant are my starting props with Justin Poore on the bench and Sam Thaiday also able to step up to the front row.
In the extended squad I have Leroy Lahrs, who I don’t think any team will enjoy playing against, and Brett White, who has shown what he can do.
At hooker, Cameron Smith is gone. His form just is not anywhere near good enough. In defense he is sound, but he offers nothing in attack, and Australia can no longer carry a bloke based on loyalty.
I selected Michael Ennis based on his form at NRL level and the fact I think a Test jersey would see him really step up to a new level. Craig Wing is my replacement hooker. He showed he is the games best in that position during the Origin series.
In the back row I have a few interesting selections.
I have Watmough and Waterhouse because they really do a job at rep level. Watmough’s footwork, speed at the line and general aggression is much needed in the Australian pack, while Waterhouse has great mobility for a big player and can cause problems on the edges against a staggered defense.
Johnson is there for his work rate at lock, I have Ben Creagh on the bench who should be a very handy replacement and Sam Thaiday is obviously well suited in the second row while in the extended squad Leroy Lahrs believe it or not is a natural second rower.
Now, I’m sure there will be some whinging by Queensland that they don’t have enough players in the squad. This squad is a 50/50 split, and I didn’t bother worrying about what state a player is from.
Australia can not afford to stroke ego’s, it can not afford to leave out good players because a few people will get upset. We need to pick the very best players we can because you can be sure that New Zealand won’t be worrying about what regions their players were born in when they select their squad.
I think Australia needs to bring a bit of size into their forward pack and that is why you see a fair few New South Wales players in the side, they are all picked for their size. We saw on Wednesday what a bunch of big, hard running forwards can do, and I want to carry that on through to test level.
On top of that, I want to get some experince into a few players who I think will be around for a long time at this top level, guys like Morris and Leroy Lahrs, they might be starters in the future, they might not. But they are sure to be there or there abouts and this experience will serve Australia well for the future.
I left Nate Myles at home to have a think about things. He is a good player but this Australian team doesn’t need to even be worrying about things like what he did. I left Crocker out because I think we need more size and I honestly think he wouldn’t be to worried about missing out on going over to England for this series.
I left Karmichael Hunt out because I think he’ll be playing rugby union by the time the Four Nations kicks off.
A few player I would love to have selected but didn’t?
Jamal Idris I hope forces his way into the squad by seasons end, he is a freak and would cause all sorts of problems, even playing as a starting winger. Robbie Farah I hope makes it, I think he has been really hard done by in regards to State Of Origin.
Scott Prince may find his way over just because he is an outstanding halfback, and should Lockyer get injured he can start and Thurston can move into five-eight.
Its all pretty exciting when you look at how much talent there is to chose from.
I think Australia looks a little thin as far as the front row goes, we really don’t have a Shane Webcke or Glen Lazarus who is big, strong, tough, has good endurance, but who also have that explosive go forward. We have props that are more work horses and I think thats an area New Zealand have a leg up on us with someone like Adam Blair who has that explosive power and ability to break the line.
In the back row its a similar story, very good players, but only Whatmough really has that explosive games I like to see and thats a worry.
The Australian backline though is incredible. So incredibly athletic, good with the ball in their hands, good under the high ball, good passing, good in defense….if the Australian backloine clicks against anyone they could easily put 60 point on.
We’ll see who steps up in the finals series, and who’s form from Origin falls away. One thing is for sure, Australia has a lot to look forward to in the Four Nations.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
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