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.

James Tedesco

An easy selection. The best fullback in the NRL by a decent margin, the current Kangaroos captain, and the first player selected.

Josh Addo-Carr

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.

Australia v Fiji: Rugby League World Cup
LEEDS, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: Josh Addo-Carr of Australia celebrates scoring their sides second try during the Rugby League World Cup 2021 Pool B match between Australia and Fiji at Headingley on October 15, 2022 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images for RLWC)

Latrell Mitchell

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.

Tom Trbojevic

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.

Valentine Holmes

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.

Cameron Munster

The best five-eighth in the world; enjoyed a stellar season in 2021 despite a lacklustre Origin series for the Maroons.

Nathan Cleary

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.

Christian Welch

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.

Damien Cook

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.

BRISBANE, NEW SOUTH WALES - JULY 11: Damien Cook of the Blues breaks through the Queensland defence during game three of the State of Origin series between the Queensland Maroons and the New South Wales Blues at Suncorp Stadium on July 11, 2018 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Payne Haas

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.

Kurt Capewell

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.

Cameron Murray

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.

Isaah Yeo

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.

Harry Grant

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.

Angus Crichton

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 Fa'asuamaleaui

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 Trbojevic

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.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 27: Jake Trbojevic of the Sea Eagles waves after the Sea Eagles win during the round 19 NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and the Manly Sea Eagles at AAMI Park on July 27, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

Cody Walker

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.

David Fifita

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.

Dane Gagai

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.

Reuben Garrick

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.

Reagan Campbell-Gillard

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.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 27: Reagan Campbell-Gillard of the Eels celebrates with team mates after scoring a try during the round three NRL match between the Parramatta Eels and the Cronulla Sharks at Bankwest Stadium on March 27, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Jai Arrow

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.

Daly Cherry-Evans

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.


  1. James Tedesco
  2. Josh Addo-Carr
  3. Latrell Mitchell
  4. Tom Trbojevic
  5. Valentine Holmes
  6. Cameron Munster
  7. Nathan Cleary
  8. Payne Haas
  9. Damien Cook
  10. Christian Welch
  11. Kurt Capewell
  12. Cameron Murray
  13. Isaah Yeo
  14. Harry Grant
  15. Angus Crichton
  16. Tino Fa'asuamaleaui
  17. Jake Trbojevic

Jai Arrow, Matt Burton, Reagan Campbell-GillardDaly Cherry-Evans, David Fifita, Dane Gagai, Reuben Garrick, Cody Walker.