Almanac Rugby League – Kangaroos Merit Team


Following on from the 2018 State of Origin series, the Australian selectors and coach Mal Meninga have released a Kangaroos Merit Team. To qualify for selection, players had to be involved in at least two Origin matches. At best, the announcement gives an indication of current thoughts about the make-up of the Kangaroos team to take on New Zealand (and possibly Tonga) at the end of the season.


The team is: 1. Billy Slater 2. Tom Trbojevic 3. Greg Inglis 4. Latrell Mitchell 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. James Maloney 8. David Klemmer 9. Damien Cook 10. Josh McGuire 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Tyson Frizell 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. James Tedesco 15. Jack De Belin 16. Josh Papalii 17. Paul Vaughan


Obviously Slater will not play in these matches, having announced his retirement from representative football. No doubt Tedesco will slot in at No. 1 leaving a gap on the bench for a utility player. You’d think that Daly Cherry-Evans or a fit Michael Morgan would be in the running for that spot. Other adjustments will come down to covering for injuries, loss of form between now and the end of the season, and/or strong performances in the finals.


I have a couple of observations:

  1.  I’m surprised that there’s no place for Valentine Holmes ahead of Josh Addo-Carr. Holmes performed at least equally well, scored more tries, is more experienced, and has a great record for Australia based on last year’s World Cup. Methinks him very hard done by.
  2. Josh McGuire has not played at prop for the past couple of seasons. Yes, he was probably Queensland’s best forward across the Origin series and has played in the position before at club level. I’d suggest that Josh Papalii has equal claims, especially on the basis of his bulldozing work in the first half of Game 3. Or perhaps Paul Vaughan could start up front, although his cause may have been undermined by the limited game time afforded him by NSW coach Freddie Fittler in Game 3.
  3. There are several players who did not play in this year’s series who might force their way into the squad, most notably Matt Gillett. And what of Reagan Campbell-Gillard, currently on the injured list, who played well in Game 1?
  4. It will be interesting to see if Daly Cherry-Evans gets a look in given that his performance in Game 3 was the best by any half-back in any game of this year’s series. Apparently Kevvie Walters is in his corner these days. If he maintains his strong club form, perhaps DCE may yet take the No. 7 jersey with Maloney moving to 6. That means Munster misses out or gets considered for the utility role – he has played in the centres and at full-back for the Melbourne Storm.
  5. I feel a bit sorry for Dane Gagai, a dead-set big game player. There just doesn’t seem to be a place for him in this squad in spite of yet another excellent Origin series.
  6.  Latrell Mitchell seems to be some sort of Anointed One. Very talented, no doubt, but had his temperament and defensive capabilities exposed somewhat in Game 3. Maybe he’s a season away from international level just yet. Perhaps a Kangaroo tour next year might be the time and place for him to grow into the national team. Ditto Nathan Cleary.


Anyway, let’s store this Merit Squad in our minds and, come the end of the season, see how much resemblance it bears to the team picked to take on the Kiwis in October.



Ian Hauser hated picking pumpkins when he was growing up on his father’s farm. He much prefers choosing his words carefully. You can check out his editing services here.



About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. As well as being one of Footy Almanac's online editors, I moonlight as an editor for hire - check me out at

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