Australian selectors have confirmed a special Kangaroos Origin Merit Team based on performances through the State of Origin series.
The selectors have named the inaugural Kangaroos Merit Team, which includes nine players from the series victors Queensland and eight from NSW.
The team is based on performances by all 43 players who took part in the 2017 Holden State of Origin series.
“This is a special squad – the inaugural Kangaroos Origin Merit Team – and clearly it is a very talented squad as well,” said Kangaroos Coach Mal Meninga.
Meninga said he hoped the naming of a Kangaroos Origin Merit Team following the interstate series would become a tradition.
“This has never been done before but I think it is an important step for the national team to make, based on the pathway from state through to international level.
“Overall it will be an acknowledgement of both personal and team performances as well as individual behaviours.”
Meninga said that ultimately form in the State of Origin series would be one of a number of criteria the selectors will take into account before settling on a 24-man World Cup squad – albeit an important one.
“The selectors will be looking at past recent performances for the Kangaroos, overall form, Club success, form specifically in the Finals Series, form in the State of Origin series as well as the values and behaviour that we expect of Kangaroos players,” Meninga said.
“If a squad was selected for the World Cup today it might contain other players based on our overall selection policy. But this is an important recognition of the Origin players and their form through the series.
“Ultimately, Origin is only one of the stepping stones for players to make ahead of Kangaroos selection, although it is clearly an important one.”
The selectors decided on criteria whereby, to be eligible for selection in the squad, a player must have played two out of the three matches in the series. Players could be selected out of the positions they played in during the series.
“Put simply, the charter was to select the best team based on the State of Origin series and we believe we have done that,” Meninga said.
This coming Wednesday marks 100 days until the 2017 Rugby League World Cup opener between the Kangaroos and England at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium.
2017 Kangaroos Origin Merit Team
Fullback: Billy Slater (Queensland, Melbourne Storm)
Wing: Dane Gagai (Queensland, Newcastle Knights)
Centre: Will Chambers (Queensland, Melbourne Storm)
Centre: Josh Dugan (NSW, St George Illawarra Dragons)
Wing: James Tedesco (NSW, Wests Tigers)
Five-eighth: James Maloney (NSW, Cronulla Sharks)
Halfback: Cooper Cronk (Queensland, Melbourne Storm)
Prop: David Klemmer (NSW, Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)
Hooker: Cameron Smith (Queensland, Melbourne Storm)
Prop: Dylan Napa (Queensland, Sydney Roosters)
Second row: Matt Gillett (Queensland, Brisbane Broncos)
Second row: Boyd Cordner (NSW, Sydney Roosters)
Lock: Josh McGuire (Queensland, Brisbane Broncos)
Interchange: Michael Morgan (Queensland, North Queensland Cowboys)
Interchange: Tyson Frizell (NSW, St George Illawarra Dragons)
Interchange: Jake Trbojevic (NSW, Manly Sea Eagles)
Interchange: Josh Jackson (NSW, Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)