Our resident Dragons Stephen Gallagher fan is back, with his New Zealand and Australian sides for the upcoming ANZAC Test .
With the ANZAC test looming only fifteen days away – It’s time to predict who will make this Kangaroos side to play the Kiwi’s at Eden Park in Auckland.
Five rounds of NRL so far, and it’s great to have the game back! My summer was spent waiting, and now it’s back I could not be happier. Each year the quality of football gets better, and their can only be 17 players named to take the field for the Kangaroos – so who will it be? My opinion is below.
Fullback: Billy Slater (Storm) – No one has come close to the form he has shown in 2012. With nine tries in fiveÂ appearancesÂ Slater is gunning to be the best there ever was.
Wingers: Akuila Uate (Knights) and Brett Morris (Dragons) – Uate needs to be there with his physicality, and to help out the tired forwards hitting it up off their own line. Morris has been exceptional at fullback for the Dragons and seems to have his spark back.
Centres: Greg Inglis (Rabbitohs) and Justin Hodges (Broncos) – Inglis is coming back to his barnstorming best this year, putting on some very solid performances despite the injury he suffered in the All-Stars match. Hodges is really thriving in the youthful environment of this new Brisbane side. New found leadershipÂ capabilitiesÂ has added an extra element to his already dangerous game.
Halves: Cooper Cronk (Storm) and Johnathan Thurston (Cowboys) – Now the great Darren Lockyer has retired, Australia have now set themselves up perfectly with this brilliant halves pairing. Cronk and Thurston both have learnt under the master himself, and with two all-round gamesÂ steeringÂ around the Kangaroos, it will lead to a very classy performance on the night.
Props: Paul Gallen (Sharks) and Petero Civoniceva (Broncos) – Gallen is the best forward in the game at the moment without a doubt, it doesn’t matter what number is on his back you know you’re going to get 100percent on the night. Civoniceva will be his normal self, with a solid impact starting and experience. He has been good since returning back to Brisbane.
Hooker: Cameron Smith (Storm) – Self-explanatoryÂ really. Cameron Smith is Cameron Smith. You already know what you’re going to get. A great leader who will tackle all night and dart from dummy half when need be.
Second Rowers: Sam Thaiday (Broncos) and Anthony Watmough (Sea Eagles) – Thaiday is a machine. Hard hitting and hard running, tackle busts galore. Watmough is the physical pain train the Kangaroos need in a test match like this.
Lock: Luke Lewis (Panthers) – A ball playing back rower who’s best football is when he is free to roam in the 13 jersey. He is an exceptional player.
Daly Cherry-Evans (Sea Eagles) – VeryÂ unconventionalÂ having a halfback on the bench, but we all know he is more than deserving of another place in the Kangaroos.
Tom Learoyd-Lars (Raiders) – A beast of a man who has had trouble with injury of late but would add a great deal off the bench.
Ben Creagh (Dragons) – Has really come in to his own of late, with Origin and Kangaroos duties before, he can and will step up to the task.
Ben Hannant (Broncos) – Another solid impact, and can run the ball at great pace.
With my Australian team named, here is a run down of my boys – the Kiwis.
Fullback: Josh Hoffman (Broncos) – Pledging his allegiance but yet to play for New Zealand, the Brisbane fullback deserves this spot. He can break the line with a quick turn of pace and knows how to score. Safe under the high ball too.
Wingers: Manu Vatuvei (Warriors) and Jason Nightingale (Dragons) – Despite not being at his rampaging best, the one they like to call the Beast always up’s his game internationally.Â Devastating with ball in hand, this is the weapon the Kiwis need. Nightingale runs like a prop but scores like a winger. The most consistent footballer in the NRL. Nightingale is a great asset to this side.
Centres: Shaun Kenny-Dowall (Roosters) and Steve Matai (Sea Eagles) – The former back-packer has started the season with a new lease on life. His football has been outstanding and has really worked on his fitness. An early injury set Matai back in the season but his aggression and skills is what the Kiwis will need if they want to topple Australia.
Halves: Benji Marshall (Tigers) and Kieran Foran (Sea Eagles) – Marshall is the most dangerous player in the NRL. So much so, it’s hard to believe he knows what he will do next. Foran will accompany him greatly with these two set to be the Kiwis halves pairing for a long time. They compliment each other with their style of football. Marshall with his flair and Foran who knows how to lead a team around.
Props: Ben Matulino (Warriors) and Sam McKendry (Panthers) – Matulino is a great starting player who adds to much defensively. Maturing finely with age, he is a must have in any football side. McKendry has flourished under new Penrith coach, and has stepped up with the loss of some experience at club level. A starting role in last years ANZAC test match, he will know what needs to be done this year.
Hooker: Isaac Luke (Rabbitohs) – You only have to watch him play for South Sydney to know what sort of impact he adds. There is no one else quite like Luke, and he needs to start and get the team rolling up the middle to catch out possibly lazy markers.
Second Rowers: Adam Blair (Tigers) and Simon Mannering (Warriors) – Blair plays on raw emotion and is a massive physicalÂ presence. Brutal all over the field and will not leave without giving his all. Simon Mannering needs to play in the second row for the Kiwis. A leader and a defensive machine, he is wasted in the centres.
Lock: Jeremy Smith (Sharks) – No one else deserves this spot more than he does. A work horse who has turned around Cronulla’s fortune so far this season. An experienced campaigner who will make sure the job gets done right.
Lewis Brown (Warriors) – Will play anywhere on the field with huge impact. Great with ball in hand and even better when putting his body on the line, he has a spark about him which can not be described in words.
Sam Rapira (Warriors) – At his best coming off the bench, and that’s just what will happen here
FuiFui MoiMoi (Eels) – Easily a crowd favourite, but is also a favourite amongst the Kiwis too. He is the definition of a hard worker.
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Roosters) – Not only his he big and strong, he can also play too. A mongrel for sure, and the Kiwis could use him to great effect.