Following the withdrawal of Australia and New Zealand from the 2021 Rugby League World Cup, organisers were forced to delay the tournament by 12 months, not just altering the date, but the squads that travelled across.
Had Australia selected their side last season, we wouldn't be seeing Jeremiah Nanai or Murray Taulagi in green and gold, though Tom Trbojevic would have suited up for his second World Cup with the Kangaroos.
Who's in? Who's out? It would've been an entirely different squad had the tournament been run on schedule.
An easy selection. The best fullback in the NRL by a decent margin, the current Kangaroos captain, and the first player selected.
A speedster, coming off his final season in Melbourne that saw the club win 19 straight games. Not only great on-field but great for squad morale over a six-week trip.
Mitchell would've missed the opening two pool games due to his overhanging suspension for the Joey Manu hit, though bounced straight into the full-strength side when available.
Fresh off a Dally M season, there would've been cries to make 'Turbo' the fullback for the tournament. However, as we saw in Origin, his role as a roaming centre makes him just as lethal.
Enjoyed a fairly topsy-turvy season as the Cowboys finished in the bottom four, however, scoring 11 tries in two games at the last World Cup gives him enough runs on the board for selection.
The best five-eighth in the world; enjoyed a stellar season in 2021 despite a lacklustre Origin series for the Maroons.
The Origin series win shortly before winning his maiden premiership is enough to get Mal Meninga over the line, yet, off-season shoulder surgery may put a line through the halfback, if he chose not to delay it.
He's the NRL's forgotten man as it stands, however, when available, Welch is one of the competition's best front-rowers. As durable as he is intelligent, the Melbourne prop would slot straight into the starting side.
Cook played a massive role in helping the Rabbitohs advance to the Grand Final, and also started and dominated the opening two Origin games, which the Blues dominated both of.
As controversial as the Brisbane prop is at times, he is arguably the most naturally-gifted front-rower in the game, and marks the new breed of athletic, big-minute, quick front-rowers.
A bolter for sure, Capewell held his own in a disappointing Maroons outfit before lifting the premiership trophy shortly before the tournament was due to commence. Especially running off Cleary, Capewell knows how to find a hole.
The race between Murray and Isaah Yeo to be the game's best current lock forward is airtight, however, Murray's versatility pushes him to an edge. His inclusion allows you to be more fluid with your bench selection, with Cam able to shift into the middle if required.
A premiership-winning captain coming off his first Origin series win. Yeo is incredibly influential and will click well with Cleary in the side. He'll hold this jersey until he retires from rep footy.
The Storm hooker would miss the opening pool game after earning a one-game suspension in the preliminary final, however, there's no doubt the Queenslander would be one of Meninga's first selections.
Mobile, strong, and can find an offload. Meninga would select Crichton for the same attributes he displayed this season, a vital squad member with a lack of pure second-rowers.
Tino's first season at the Gold Coast Titans resulted in a finals berth, where Meninga is the Head of Football. While there's no bias at play, Meninga sees close-up the leadership and potential that Fa'asuamaleaui displays.
Jake didn't return to the Blues side in 2021 after he departed it, still, a preliminary final berth for the Sea Eagles on the back of Jake's consistency is all Mal needs to see.
Somewhat surprising to read now, Walker finished third in Dally M voting and managed nearly 40 try-assists through the year. Carried the Rabbitohs to the big dance, scoring one of the great Grand Final tries only to have it overshadowed by THAT pass.
Pending eligibility, Fifita's 17 tries in 21 games caught a lot of attention, and certainly enough for Meninga to justify his selection. A behemoth with the speed of a winger, Fifita would run rampant in the squad.
The South Sydney centre had a career-best season last year, and is the secret behind their left-edge's attack. While statisticians raved about Alex Johnston's 30 tries and Cody Walker's 38 try-assists, Gagai provided the link between them. A proven rep performer, Meninga handed him his Queensland debut in 2015, he'd be there.
The Sea Eagles' sharpshooter enjoyed an unbelievable 2021 season, and would likely have filled Murray Haulage's spot in the squad. Garrick scored a whopping 334 points last season alone, including 23 tries, and deserves a run in the rep arena.
The Parramatta prop may not have reached the heights he did in 2022, however, the former Panther is a must-pick for Mal. Leads up front and refuses to take a backwards step, 'RCG' is an old-school prop and would wreak havoc in the side. The spot could easily go to Daniel Saifiti if the Fijian international pledged allegiance to Australia.
Arrow was strong in his first season at South Sydney, mainly coming off the pine to give their middle a second wind. The former Titan started at lock for Queensland and without the likes of Reuben Cotter (pre-breakout season) and Lindsay Collins (ACL), would find a home as a Kangaroo.
The Queensland captain HAD to be there, even if Cleary would've been the first choice. DCE played a huge role in taking Manly to a preliminary final, and while Tom Trbojevic would've stolen all the praise, they couldn't have advanced that far without Cherry-Evans' football IQ and kicking game. A true professional.
POTENTIAL KANGAROOS RLWC 2021 SQUAD
- James Tedesco
- Josh Addo-Carr
- Latrell Mitchell
- Tom Trbojevic
- Valentine Holmes
- Cameron Munster
- Nathan Cleary
- Payne Haas
- Damien Cook
- Christian Welch
- Kurt Capewell
- Cameron Murray
- Isaah Yeo
- Harry Grant
- Angus Crichton
- Tino Fa'asuamaleaui
- Jake Trbojevic