Don’t panic, this lot will do the job for Australia
WITH the Kangaroos no longer the No.1 Test playing nation - for the first time since the late 70s - new coach Mal Meninga will announce tomorrow a team that has the best chance of beating the Kiwis.
And despite the fact the birth certificates of most named will more than likely be yellowish in colour and frayed around the edges, it will be a Dad's Army team that will get the job done.
Meninga has already shown his selection hand. Leading up to Test selection he has spoken about not speculating on new talent, about combination and cohesion and about having faith in the tried and tested. In other words, don't expect rookies.
And, hopefully, don't expect to see Semi Radradra wearing the green and gold in Newcastle on Friday week. If we need a wannabe Aussie to restore our world ranking, then the game of rugby league in this country is in a sad, sad state.
No longer being privy to 'inside info' from the selection room, I have absolutely no idea about the make-up of the Kangaroos for the Anzac Test. But what I do know is that Meninga and his co-selectors, Bob Fulton and Darren Lockyer, make up the most qualified panel in the history of the game.
Between them they played 140 Test matches for their country. Lockyer's 59 is the most ever for Australia, with Meninga (46) next on the list. Fulton ranks ninth with his 35 appearances.
And the panel won't baulk at taking a bunch of elder statesmen into the Test arena either - and nor should they. Lockyer and Meninga both played until they were 34, and Fulton was 32 when he called it quits, with all three still rep players when they retired.
So in 2016, when players are fulltime professionals training under state-of-the-art conditions and with blue chip medical care and dietary advice, 30-year-olds are the 20-year-olds of yesteryear. And on Anzac Day, I hope it's not disrespectful to use the words 'age shall not weary them'.
For what it's worth, the team I would announce tomorrow is below, and the average age is 27. While it may not be totally representative of the in-form players of the competition, it is a team that will restore our pride - just what Meninga wants from this Test.
My team would be: Lachlan Coote, Darius Boyd, Greg Inglis, Josh Dugan, Josh Morris, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Matt Scott, Cameron Smith, James Tamou, Greg Bird, Paul Gallen, Corey Parker. Interchange: Michael Morgan, Sam Thaiday, Andrew Fifita, Matt Gillet.
Some explanations: Coote is in superlative form - to leave him out would be errant; Josh Morris seems to have been totally overlooked, and I'm not sure why; Bird and Gallen will make the Kiwis earn every metre they gain; and the bench is a near-perfect mix.
And if given the chance, that team will beat the Kiwis.