Brisbane Broncos veteran Sam Thaiday (left) has been named in the Australian squad.
Brisbane Broncos veteran Sam Thaiday (left) has been named in the Australian squad. PAUL MILLER

Winners and losers of Australian selection

MAL Meninga's loyalty first policy has been seriously tested by a couple of incumbents who were lucky to hold their spots, while the exclusion of some of his Queensland favourites surprised.

After a successful Four Nations tour last year, the Kangaroos coach will stage 2017's first World Cup audition in next Friday's trans-Tasman Test and there's plenty of storylines to keep an eye on.

The winners and losers following Wednesday's Test team announcement all have something to prove with an eye to the big tournament at the end of the year.




Johnathan Thurston

He hasn't played in two weeks thanks to a calf injury but Mal Meninga had no hesitations in naming the champion No.7 in his side.

By now even Stevie Wonder can see the influence Thurston has on a team. He's the best in the game so it comes as no surprise that the coach will give his playmaker every chance to be part of the side.

Thurston's been named on an extended bench for the Cowboys this weekend but no certainty to play.



Will Chambers

The Melbourne centre has made just one appearance for the Kangaroos which came back in 2015.

Injured for a large chunk of last season, the 28-year-old lost his place in the Queensland Origin side but his form this season has him in the box seat to reclaim what's rightfully his.

If there were any doubts over Chambers' position in the Kangaroos side, he tossed those out with a dominate display for the Storm on Anzac Day.

While the loss of Greg Inglis (ACL) hurts, Chambers' form this year has shown he'll do Inglis' jumper proud.



Trent Merrin

The Panthers star is arguably the most fortunate incumbent to have held his place after an ordinary start to 2017.

Merrin has been well below his best in a struggling Penrith team, with his running metres and offloads down on last season and his missed tackle count a concern.

With plenty of depth in Australia's back-row stocks, Merrin has seriously tested Meninga's loyalty policy.



Tyson Frizell

Last year's breakout representative star has been a tad quiet even though his Dragons side has started the season superbly and sits in the top four.

With the likes of Sam Thaiday, Josh Jackson and Wade Graham breathing down his neck, Frizell will need to lift to hang onto his place.



David Klemmer

The Canterbury enforcer never shies away from the tough stuff.

So with Matt Scott out for the season with a knee injury, the 23-year-old was the logical replacement.

After all, Klemmer is the future. He may be young but he made his Test debut back in 2014.

In fact he's made more appearances in the green and gold than he has in sky blue for NSW.



Michael Morgan

After playing six Tests and seemingly establishing himself as the Kangaroos' bench utility, Morgan has had a dip in form at the wrong time.

Fortunately it hasn't cost him his spot.

The Cowboys five-eighth had a slow start to the season and more recently has been criticised for struggling with the extra playmaking responsibility with his star halves partner Johnathan Thurston out injured.



Sam Thaiday

It's not the end of the road for Slammin' Sam.

He missed the Four Nations final with a fractured cheekbone and eye socket but Meninga didn't hesitate in placing him back in his side.

Turning 32 in June, Thaiday has served the Kanagroos well.

With 31 Tests and able to play in the middle or an edge, Thaiday is a valuable asset.




James Maloney

He's been included in an extended squad but the only way he gets a run is if Thurston's not fit enough to play.

A two-time premiership winner, the 30-year-old is one of the most consistent halves in the competition.

Approaching 220 first grade games, Maloney made his Test debut following Cronulla's premiership victory last year.

The NSW Origin No.6 played two games for the Kangaroos during the Four Nations campaign in England.

It's not often a New South Welshman receives a glowing endorsement from a Queenslander but just last week Cameron Smith backed Maloney as the man to replace JT if he is unavailable.



Justin O'Neill

He played three Origins for Queensland last year and two Tests for Australia as part of the Four Nations tour at the end of the season but he hasn't done enough to get a start next week.

With Greg Inglis sidelined with an ACL injury, it was a neck and neck race between O'Neill and Chambers for the centre position.

Some shaky form did the 26-year-old no favours as he lost out to his former Melbourne teammate.

Defensively, the Cowboys centre has been indifferent.

It's hardly the form you want to take into a Test match.

Injury didn't help either with a hamstring injury stalling his start to the season.

He's been named on an extended bench as backline cover.



Matt Moylan

Has had his captaincy questioned after being dropped to reserve grade for disciplinary reasons and has been unable to find the form that spearheaded the Panthers into the second week of finals last year.

After making his Test debut last year as part of the Four Nations, the versatile 25-year-old has been overlooked this time.


Scott Barbour

Billy Slater

The champion fullback has come storming back into representative calculations after an impressive return from a serious shoulder injury.

Despite spending the best part of two seasons on the sideline, it's been business as usual for Slater since returning to the Storm side in round three.

Meninga rates Slater incredibly highly but Darius Boyd has been so good since taking the Queensland and Australia No.1 jerseys that the coach couldn't justify a step back in time.

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