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Top 17: Forgotten rep stars

Top 17: Forgotten rep stars
Nathan Merritt has gone from NSW representative and record-breaking try-scorer to NSW Cup regular in the space of a season. Credit: Grant Trouville. Copyright: NRL Photos.

While everyone is absorbed with the quickly approaching second State of Origin game, it's worth remembering those players who once upon a time played at the highest levels yet have primarily plied their trade in the lower grades this season.  At one point in their lives everyone in this 17-man squad has played for his state or country, but this year has been seemingly forgotten.

1. Nathan Merritt (North Sydney Bears/Rabbitohs): one Origin match for NSW

Merritt went from the highest of highs this year to the depths of the NSW Cup in a matter of weeks. After breaking the Rabbitohs' all-time try scoring record, the one-time Blues representative found himself playing with the North Sydney Bears soon afterwards. While he has since been recalled to the first-grade side as cover, chances are Merritt will be back playing for the Bears soon when Alex Johnston and Greg Inglis are both available.

2. Lote Tuqiri (North Sydney Bears/Rabbitohs): six Origins for Queensland, nine Tests for Australia

The experienced winger hasn't been able to cut it this season with the Rabbitohs. With the likes of rookie Alex Johnston and brothers-in-law Bryson Goodwin and Joel Reddy ahead of him, the dual international has been spotted running around North Sydney Oval more often than not since leaving the Wests Tigers.

3. Dane Nielsen (Warriors): three Origins for Queensland

Nielsen hasn't been the same since leaving the Storm, having earned three Maroon jerseys while at the Melbourne club. The Warriors centre hasn't been spotted in first-grade since Andrew McFadden's coaching debut in Round 7 and it looks like he won't be re-emerging anytime soon with Konrad Hurrell and Ngani Laumape in good form. 

4. Krisnan Inu (Bulldogs): five Tests for New Zealand

If it wasn't for State of Origin duty and an untimely injury to centre Josh Morris, Des Hasler probably wouldn't have been bothered picking Inu this season. Inu has remained loyal to the club in reserve grade despite interest from elsewhere and it has, for the time being, looked to have worked for him.

5. David Williams (Sea Eagles): two Origins for NSW, two Tests for Australia

A cult hero down at Brookvale, the Wolfman hasn't been impressing coach Geoff Toovey enough this season to oust young Peta Hiku from the right flank. With no tries to his name from seven games for the Sea Eagles his demotion makes sense, though he has been trying his best to reclaim his spot in the NRL.  

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6. Reni Maitua (Bulldogs): one Test for Australia

Maitua's well-documented troubles off the field are the primary reason he has only played one game in the NRL for the Bulldogs. Named to play five-eighth this weekend with Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds on Origin duty, Maitua gets another chance to prove he deserves a regular spot in the top side.

7. Ben Roberts (Sharks/Storm): five Tests for New Zealand

Everybody smirked when Craig Bellamy signed the former Kiwi at the start of the year and while he has spent more time playing for Cronulla in the NSW Cup than the Storm in the NRL he has been solid as cover for the injured Cooper Cronk. It's just a shame that Bulldogs and Eels fans don't see it that way.

8. Petero Civoniceva (Redcliffe Dolphins): 33 Origins for Queensland, 45 Tests for Australia

We digress. Nobody will ever forget the great Civoniceva, though many won't be aware the veteran is still running around for the Redcliffe Dolphins in the Queensland Cup. With an unannounced appearance for Fiji in early May, the 38-year-old prop reneged on his retirement and ran out for Redcliffe weeks later. 

9. Siliva Havili (Warriors): one Test for New Zealand

The glory of making your New Zealand debut after playing only three NRL games was the reality Havili faced earlier this season. But after a solid hit-out against the Kangaroos, Havili found himself playing against the Mounties in the NSW Cup just a week later. The hooker has only played three NRL games since.

10. Mark O'Meley (Wyong Roos): 10 Origins for NSW, 15 Tests for Australia

The man aptly nicknamed 'Ogre' has returned from the English Super League with very little fanfare to play for the Wyong Roos in the NSW Cup this season. When he wasn't giving it to his opposition players, O'Meley was a formidable prop for the Bulldogs and it shows in his representative credentials.

11. Timana Tahu (Knights): 12 Origins for NSW, five Tests for Australia

While he has sporadically played in the back row as his speed diminishes, the usual centre/winger has struggled to make serious inroads at the Knights since rejoining the club in 2012. The 33-year-old veteran is set to make his comeback in the NSW Cup this weekend after recovering from a knee reconstruction.  

12. Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (Mounties/Raiders): four Origins for NSW, four Tests for Australia

You'd think Ricky Stuart and the struggling Raiders would give someone like Learoyd-Lahrs a crack. While he's currently on the shelf with a knee injury, Stuart has had plenty of opportunities to recall the four-time Kangaroo representative to first grade this year.

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13. Dene Halatau (Tigers): 15 Tests for New Zealand

To be fair Halatau broke his ankle in the pre-season trials but has spent time in the NSW Cup on his road to recovery. With Farah, Fulton and Woods missing from the Tigers line-up this weekend, Halatau is set to make his NRL comeback. However long that lasts remains to be seen.

Interchange

14. Kalifa Faifai Loa (Tweed Heads Seagulls/Titans): two Tests for New Zealand 

Faifai Loa joined the Titans from the Cowboys this season to extend his chances of getting a crack in the NRL. He has only made two appearances in for the Titans, usually finding himself crossing the Queensland border to play for Tweed Heads.

15. Fuifui Moimoi (Wentworthville Magpies/Eels): 12 Tests for New Zealand

The Eels' young blood is the main cause of Moimoi spending the past few weeks in the NSW Cup. With the likes of Paulo, Terepo and Pauli killing it up the middle for the resurgent Eels, the 12-time Kiwi representative is struggling to be noticed. 

16. Epalahame Lauaki (Sea Eagles): two Tests for New Zealand

Not much has been made of Lauaki signing with the Sea Eagles earlier this season. A member of the Wigan Warriors' victorious English Super League squad last year, Lauaki hasn't even forced himself off the bench for Manly in the NSW Cup.

17. Tim Grant (Windsor Wolves/Panthers): two Origins for NSW

Signing with the Rabbitohs for next season wouldn't have helped but Grant has struggled for a spot in the Panthers' best 17 this season.  The former NSW prop has been restricted to six games for the ladder-leading Panthers and to his credit has taken it with good grace.

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