The biggest question on Mal Meninga’s mind right now will be who should partner Cooper Cronk in the halves for Australia at the World Cup next month.
Should Cronk make it through the grand final without injury he is certain to be named at halfback. With Jonathan Thurston not available for the World Cup due to injury, the five-eighth position is vacant.
There are three main contenders – Michael Morgan, Cameron Munster and James Maloney.
So which one of these players will get the nod from Meninga?
Morgan and Maloney have both played for Australia before, but Maloney has been behind Cronk and Thurston and Morgan typically plays as a utility off the bench.
All three players have played at State of Origin level at least once. Maloney has played nine games for New South Wales in the halves, Morgan has eight for Queensland, though either as a centre or off the bench, and Munster has played one game at five-eighth.
In terms of Grand Finals Maloney has played three and won two, Morgan has played in one and was victorious, while Munster played last season in the loss to the Sharks. However, Morgan and Munster will both play their second on Sunday and one will come out on top.
This could play a big factor in who pairs with Cronk. On one hand, Munster is Cronk’s regular teammate at Melbourne and even paired with him in the halves in the most recent State of Origin game. On the other hand, Morgan’s form in the finals series has been unbelievable and he has taken the Cowboys much further into the finals than anyone thought they could.
Both players have a huge chance to impress during the Grand Final, though Morgan’s form during the finals will still be a huge factor even if Munster outplays him.
This is not to write off Maloney though, as he has started for Australia and was probably the favourite to replace Thurston before Morgan’s recent run. Morgan has also started for the Kangaroos but was more likely to be selected as the utility for the side with Maloney starting.
When comparing season statistics of the three players, Morgan comes out on top by quite a margin, though he has played more games. His 15 try assists trump Munster and Maloney who each had 12 and his 10 tries is far more than Maloney, who had four, and Munster, who has one.
Once again, this makes more sense when considering Munster played alongside Cronk and Maloney was alongside Townsend, both first-choice halves for their side.
The statistics lean towards Morgan being the best choice for the position, but who will actually be selected?
Of the three players, Morgan is the only certainty, as he will be named on the bench if he does not start. Maloney is unlikely to play if he does not start but Munster could be named as the utility for the side.
The most likely scenario is that Morgan will be named at five-eighth. In his current form, he is one of the best players in the world and not selecting him as a starter would be a tough call. This means that Munster will probably be named on the bench as the utility player with Maloney being selected in the squad.
What combination of these players do you think will play at the World Cup, or do you think another player will be selected, such as Daly Cherry-Evans or Mitchell Pearce?