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Experts' view: Kangaroos merit team

On the back of Queensland's against-the-odds win in the State of Origin series, attention has turned to the Gallagher Kangaroos Merit team.

After the official team was announced on Monday, the experts at NRL.com have come up with their own merit teams for 2020.

While a handful of players picked themselves with impressive seasons in the Telstra Premiership and a series of strong performances in the Ampol State of Origin arena, others forced their way in by starring for either NSW or Queensland.

The criteria for this team is simple: players must be available for Test selection (no Cameron Smith) and everyone is assumed to free of injury.

Unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the cancellation of international football in 2020 but the debate about who would be in Australia's Test team lives on.

Gallagher Kangaroos Merit Team named

Experts' view - Kangaroos merit team

Steve Renouf (Maroons legend)

1. James Tedesco, 2. Josh Addo-Carr, 3. Dane Gagai, 4. Jack Wighton, 5. Daniel Tupou, 6. Cameron Munster, 7. Nathan Cleary, 8. Payne Haas, 9. Damien Cook, 10. Josh Papalii, 11. Christian Welch, 12. Felise Kaufusi, 13. Jake Trbojevic. Interchange: 14. Dale Finucane, 15. Jai Arrow, 16. Lindsay Collins, 17. Tino Fa'asuamaleaui.

Big Tino is very similar to Welch but as Queensland and the Storm have shown, things go very well when they're in the same team. Tino was unbelievable in the third Origin game could have easily been man of the match

Jamie Soward (2010 premiership winner)

1. James Tedesco, 2. Daniel Tupou, 3. Dane Gagai, 4. Jack Wighton, 5. Josh Addo-Carr, 6. Cameron Munster, 7. Daly Cherry-Evans, 8. Josh Papalli, 9. Damien Cook, 10. Daniel Saifiti, 11. Felise Kaufusi, 12. Angus Chrichton, 13. Tino Fa'asuamaleaui. Interchange: 14. Jake Trbojevic, 15. Christian Welch, 16. Lindsay Collins, 17. Harry Grant

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This team was picked off the State of Origin series. The likes of Dane Gagai, Daniel Saifiti and Tino Fa'asuamaleaui simply can't be left out. Harry Grant's heroics in the decider also left an impact - he and Damien Cook would be a lethal combination. Munster and Cherry-Evans remain the best halves combination in the world. 

Alicia Newton (NRL.com reporter)

1. James Tedesco, 2. Valentine Holmes, 3. Dane Gagai, 4. Latrell Mitchell, 5. Josh Addo-Carr, 6. Cameron Munster, 7. Daly Cherry-Evans, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Damien Cook, 10. David Klemmer, 11. Boyd Cordner, 12. Tyson Frizell, 13. Jake Trbojevic. Interchange: 14. Jack Wighton, 15. Daniel Saifiti, 16. Angus Crichton, 17. Cameron Murray

There are only five Queenslanders in the side, which may be controversial given the Origin series win. However, there were only four in the last Test match. Daly Cherry-Evans gets the nod over Nathan Cleary. David Klemmer keeps his spot with Jake Trbojevic and Cameron Murray also working around the middle.

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Paul Suttor (NRL.com editor)

1. James Tedesco, 2. Dane Gagai, 3. Clint Gutherson, 4. Jack Wighton, 5. Josh Addo-Carr, 6. Cameron Munster, 7. Nathan Cleary, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Damien Cook, 10. Payne Haas, 11. Boyd Cordner, 12. Tyson Frizell, 13. Jake Trbojevic. Interchange: 14. Daly Cherry-Evans, 15. Christian Welch, 16. Tino Fa'asuamaleaui, 17. Cameron Murray

It's a strange time when specialists centres deserving of higher honours are hard to come by. Nathan Cleary has overtaken Daly Cherry-Evans as the best halfback in the game and should be the Kangaroos' No.7 for the best part of a decade.

Fa'asuamaleaui and Haas are destined to become Test teammates eventually, hopefully it doesn't take the edge off their budding rivalry at club and Origin level.

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Dan Walsh (NRL.com reporter)

1. James Tedesco, 2. Dane Gagai, 3. Clint Gutherson, 4. Jack Wighton, 5. Josh Addo-Carr, 6. Cameron Munster, 7. Daly Cherry-Evans, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Damien Cook, 10. Payne Haas, 11. Boyd Cordner, 12. Angus Crichton, 13. Jake Trbojevic. Interchange: 14. Ben Hunt, 15. Christian Welch, 16. Tino Fa'asuamaleaui, 17. Jai Arrow

A difficult exercise given injuries to Boyd Cordner and Cameron Murray severely limited their game time, while AJ Brimson was a red-hot shout for the utility role until he too went down. Daly Cherry-Evans outplayed Nathan Cleary in two of the three Origin games and gets the No.7 jersey, while Angus Crichton had a very strong 2020 and was one of the Blues' best along with Jake Trbojevic.

Mary Konstantopoulos (Ladies Who League) 

1. James Tedesco, 2. Daniel Tupou, 3. Latrell Mitchell, 4. Tom Trbojevic, 5. Josh Addo-Carr, 6. Cameron Munster, 7. Nathan Cleary, 8. Christian Welch, 9. Harry Grant, 10. Josh Papalii, 11. Angus Crichton, 12. Boyd Cordner, 13. Jake Trbojevic. Interchange: 14. Payne Haas, 15. Kalyn Ponga, 16. Cameron Murray, 17. Lindsay Collins

There are a couple of shock inclusions including Harry Grant and Lindsay Collins, but both were great in Origin and deserve to be rewarded. Grant, in particular, was incredible for Queensland in Game III. I have no doubt will hold onto that No.9 jersey for Queensland for years to come.

Chris Kennedy (NRL.com reporter)

1. James Tedesco, 2. Josh Addo-Carr, 3. Latrell Mitchell, 4. Dane Gagai, 5. Valentine Holmes, 6. Cameron Munster, 7. Daly Cherry-Evans, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Damien Cook, 10. David Klemmer, 11. Boyd Cordner, 12. Angus Crichton, 13. Jake Trbojevic. Interchange: 14. Jack Wighton, 15, Christian Welch, 16. Cameron Murray, 17. Dale Finucane

Boyd Cordner is captain and holds his spot if fit, and remains a better player than many give him credit for. Latrell Mitchell retains his spot at centre given his damaging and explosive ability plus a lack of genuine centres putting their names forth. Klemmer is the only man in the 17 overlooked for the recent Origin series but holds out the likes of Haas, Saifiti, Collins.

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Lone Scout (NRL.com Fantasy guru)

1. James Tedesco, 2, Josh Addo-Carr, 3. Dane Gagai, 4, Jack Wighton, 5, Valentine Holmes, 6. Cameron Munster, 7. Daly Cherry-Evans, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Harry Grant, 10. Christian Welch, 11. Felise Kaufusi, 12. Angus Crichton, 13. Jake Trbojevic. Interchange: 14. Tino Fa'asuamaleaui, 15. Daniel Saifiti, 16. Dale Finucane, 17. Kalyn Ponga.

Yes, he's a rookie who only has one Origin appearance (off the bench), but Harry Grant is Cameron Smith's heir apparent not just as the Storm's No.9 but as the NRL's best hooker. He is that good. Kalyn Ponga is my wildcard on the bench after missing the Origin series through injury.

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Brad Walter (NRL.com senior reporter)

1. James Tedesco, 2. Dane Gagai, 3. Tom Trbojevic, 4. Jack Wighton, 5. Josh Addo-Carr, 6. Cameron Munster, 7. Daly Cherry-Evans, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Damien Cook, 10. Daniel Saifiti, 11. Boyd Cordner, 12. David Fifita, 13. Jake Trbojevic. Interchange: 14. Ryan Papenhuyzen, 15. Tyson Frizell, 16. Timo Fa'asuamaleaui, 17. Payne Haas.

 

Troy Whittaker (NRL.com reporter)

1. James Tedesco, 2. Josh Addo-Carr, 3. Jack Wighton, 4. Stephen Crichton, 5. Dane Gagai, 6. Cameron Munster, 7. Daly Cherry-Evans, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Damien Cook, 10. Christian Welch, 11. Felise Kaufusi, 12. Angus Crichton, 13. Tino Fa'asuamaleaui. Interchange: 14. Ryan Papenhuyzen, 15. Payne Haas, 16. Daniel Saifiti, 17. Tyson Frizell

Jack Wighton wasn't at his best for NSW, but the Dally M Player of the Year held his own at centre for Australia in 2019 and is too classy to leave out. Stephen Crichton and Ryan Papenhuyzen were overlooked for Origin debuts but make my side on irresistible form. Daly Cherry-Evans would be the skipper.

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Martin Lenehan (NRL.com senior journalist)

1. James Tedesco, 2. Josh Addo-Carr, 3. Stephen Crichton, 4. Tom Trbojevic, 5. Dane Gagai, 6. Cameron Munster, 7. Daly Cherry-Evans, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Damien Cook, 10. Christian Welch. 11. Felise Kaufusi, 12. Tyson Frizell, Jake Trbojevic. Interchange: 14. Kalyn Ponga, 15. Daniel Saifiti, 16. Lindsay Collins, 17. Cameron Murray.

Young gun Stephen Crichton should have played Origin in 2020 and the Blues paid a price for picking non-specialist centres. Up front, Lindsay Collins and Daniel Saifiti deserve a shot on the back of barnstorming Origin displays.

Zac Bailey (NRL.com reporter)

1. James Tedesco. 2. Tom Trbojevic, 3. Latrell Mitchell, 4. Jack Wighton, 5. Josh Addo-Carr, 6. Cameron Munster, 7. Daly Cherry-Evans, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Damien Cook, 10, Christian Welch, 11. Boyd Cordner, 12. David Fifita, 13. Victor Radley. Interchange: Ryan Papenhuyzen, 15. Jake Trbojevic, 16. Tino Fa'asuamaleaui, 17. Angus Crichton.

This merit team has 10 incumbent players from Australia’s loss to Tonga Invitational last year. Luke Keary and Nathan Cleary are great players but Cameron Munster and Daly Cherry-Evans got the job done in Origin - against the odds – so they’re in the halves.

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Christian Welch should be rewarded for his breakout series for Queensland and although he was injured for most of the season, I would love to see David Fifita in the international arena. Ryan Papenhuyzen would be the utility and X factor off the bench.

Kenny Scott (NRL.com podcaster)

1. James Tedesco, 2. Ryan Papenhuyzen, 3. Dane Gagai, 4. Tom Trbojevic,  5. Josh Addo-Carr, 6. Cameron Munster, 7. Daly Cherry-Evans, 7. Josh Papalii, 9. Harry Grant, 10. Payne Haas, 11, Tyson Frizell, 12, Junior Paulo, 13. Jake Trobjevic. Interchange: 14. David Fifita, 15. David Klemmer, 16. Lindsay Collins, 17, Tino Fa'asuamaleaui. 

Papenhuyzen on the wing because he’s that good he needs to be somewhere and Harry Grant makes his international debut in a breakout rookie season. The QLD halves pairing get the nod with Papalii leading the engine room.

 

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