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Renouf: Murray and Ponga ready for Australian debuts

The time has come for South Sydney lock Cameron Murray to wear the green and gold and I would pick him on the bench for the Kangaroos for the upcoming Tests.

Newcastle fullback Kalyn Ponga also has a spot on the interchange bench in the team I would select.

First to Murray. He is a player set for a lengthy career with the Kangaroos. While not the biggest lock, he is so dynamic and tough that his lack of size is not an issue. This year he has turned into a match-winner who can do it all, whether that be making try-saving tackles on an edge, defending in the middle or breaking the game open with late footwork and great support play.

Off the bench Murray would be dynamite but I would persist with Jake Trbojevic as the starting lock at this stage just because he has been there and done that and is an outstanding ball runner and ball distributor himself.

Fullback is easy. That will be James Tedesco, who I believe is the best player in the game and should take out the Dally M Medal. He has been a standout at every level.

On the wing I reckon Josh Addo-Carr is one definite. His try in Melbourne’s semi-final win over Parramatta showcased his dazzling pace and evasiveness. On the other wing I think Mal Meninga will stick with Dane Gagai. Dane hasn’t been at his best for South Sydney this year but in representative football he always goes to another level for Queensland and Australia. It is an arena where he plays his best football.

With Tom Trbojevic out of the picture the centres should be Latrell Mitchell and Jack Wighton. Wighton has been phenomenal at five-eighth for Canberra but showed for NSW that he can shine in the centres.

Latrell is a must. He was picked by Mal last time Australia played and I believe he has emerged from the disappointment of being left out of the NSW side for a couple of State of Origin games. He has bounced back brilliantly with the Roosters and is a real weapon on that left edge. He is one of my favourite players and a great centre.

The halves are a tough one because I am a huge fan of Daly Cherry-Evans and I reckon he has captained Manly and Queensland superbly this year, but I just can’t go past Luke Keary as the number seven. Keary has been unlucky not to play for NSW but his form for the Roosters can’t be denied. It would be a real kick in the guts to leave Keary out. He has just been too good.

Cameron Munster will be the five-eighth I am sure. He is such a competitor and has all the skills that you want in a number six. I was tempted to play DCE as a number 14 but I just believe Ponga offers you more in different positions across the park.

Up front I can’t go past David Klemmer and Josh Papalii as the starting props. You know what you are going to get from Klemmer and Papalii has been the best prop this year in the entire competition. He got a kick up the bum from Ricky Stuart last year and the way he has responded has been outstanding. He is in the form of his life.

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South Sydney’s Damien Cook is a shoo-in to play at hooker. His speed out of dummy half is second to none and I like the way he has added more game smarts to his arsenal under Wayne Bennett this year.

Roosters captain Boyd Cordner and Storm back-rower Felise Kaufusi will line up in the second-row. Those two complement each other so well. Kaufusi has had an amazing year with his toughness in defence and Cordner continues to play great footy at all levels. With Jake Trbojevic at lock that is a potent forward pack.

I have gone with Ponga on the bench because he just offers you so much strike in the halves or in the outside backs. He showed for Queensland last year off the bench that he will do the job for you anywhere you put him. What a player to bring on.

Murray is also so versatile. The other two bench forwards I have gone with are Tyson Frizell and Wade Graham. Frizell is just so resilient and reliable and Graham is a tough as teak with great ball skills. It is not a big bench that I have named but the game has changed and with the talent of this  Australian team they will dominate.


The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.

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