Monday Buzz: Baby Blues to become KangaBlues
QUEENSLAND'S 12-year domination of Australia's Kangaroos squad is finally over.
Mal Meninga's team to play New Zealand, and hopefully Tonga, at the end of the season faces its biggest shake-up in more than a decade on the back of the Baby Blues winning the State of Origin series.
If the side is chosen strictly on State of Origin form, as many as 11 players from Australia's 2017 World Cup champions would be missing and replaced by Brad Fittler's all-conquering Blues.
A merit team will also be picked after the final Origin game.
Meninga told The Daily Telegraph on Sunday that Origin form outweighs anything else.
"You talk about finals form but I like Origin as a template," he said. "It's high pressure footy. To execute under pressure is what we're looking for."
The rep football retirements of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater combined with injuries and out-of-form players would give the NSW their best share of green and gold jerseys for more than a decade.
Six NSW Blues would make their Test debuts - James Tedesco, Latrell Mitchell, Josh Addo Carr, Damien Cook, Jack De Belin and Paul Vaughan.
Queensland's boom utility Kalyn Ponga would also get a start on the bench as a debutant.
Not since 2006 has a full-strength Australian team had 10 or more NSW players.
Obviously finals form in September will be a key factor when Meninga sits down with his selectors to name a 17-man squad to play the Kiwis in Auckland in October.
But those who have stood out in Origin will surely have a head start.
As many as 11 players from last year's World Cup-winning side could miss out.
Smith, Cronk, Slater, (retired) Dane Gagai, Will Chambers, Michael Morgan, Aaron Woods, Matt Gillett, Wade Graham, Jordan McLean and Reagan Campbell-Gillard wouldn't make it.
The Kangaroos jerseys will be a huge motivation for the Blues in the Suncorp Stadium dead rubber on Wednesday week.
A three-nil series whitewash would put even more pressure on Meninga and his selectors.
The Baby Blues would certainly be in the box seat.
Hooker Damien Cook has been made the most of the retirement of Smith and is the frontrunner to wear the No.9 jersey. He has clearly outplayed Andrew McCullough.
In the three-quarter line Mitchell and Addo-Carr have also outplayed Kangaroos Gagai and Chambers.
And in the forwards both De Belin and Vaughan have stood out over their Maroons rivals.
On form Josh McGuire would be the only Queensland forward to make the Kangaroos starting line-up.
In the past the halves have always been the straightforward selection with Cronk and Thurston.
This year it's far more difficult although James Maloney and Cameron Munster have been the best performed halves in the two Origin games.
Meninga agrees Maloney is a great option.
"Jimmy has been exceptional managing games for Penrith and NSW," he said, "He played an organising role rather than his eyes-up role. I think he'd made a great number seven."
Although he played in the losing Origin side, Queensland skipper Greg Inglis appears certain to replace Smith as Kangaroos captain.
He has led Queensland magnificently in the two Origin games and with 32 appearances for the Maroons, he is by far the most experienced candidate.
NSW skipper Boyd Cordner has played only 11 Origins.