With Round Six complete and just two weeks until the ANZAC Test Match in Brisbane, the Australian selectors have some tough decisions ahead but just how tough in reality these decisions are remains to be seen.
The age old debate on the merits of selection: Form v Reputation � will forever rage on. And despite the incredible form of North Queensland�s Johnathan Thurston this season it seems a reach to suggest that the Australian selectors will drop skipper Darren Lockyer from the team entirely. But will they move Anthony Minichiello to the wing to give Thurston his first Test jumper?
Here is the team NSC sees the Australian Selectors going with, with form and reputation deciding the team.
NSC�s Predicted ANZAC Test Lineup:
MINICHIELLO, Anthony HODGES, Justin BELL, Steven GASNIER, Mark TAHU, Timana LOCKYER, Darren � JOHNS, Andrew PRICE, Steven BUDERUS, Danny CIVONICEVA, Petero HINDMARSH, Nathan O�DONNELL, Luke KENNEDY, Ben
FITZGIBBON, Craig WING, Craig MASON, Willie BOWEN, Matthew So that leaves no room for Thurston. A travesty no doubt if form was the key component to picking representative sides but we all know reputation carries an awful lot of weight when champion players are involved. Darren Lockyer is a champion player and should he oust Thurston then he should not be maligned � he has accomplished more than Thurston over his career and that must be factored in � regardless of the form Thurston is displaying.
Is it right? Maybe not, but is it the reality of football? Yes.
I don�t believe the Australian selectors will want to carry another halfback on the bench especially when Lockyer and Andrew Johns are such class players, so Thurston will most likely not be selected. The selection of Matthew Bowen and Craig Wing might surprise but both would be used as shock weapons against the big Kiwi forwards around the ruck and give the team more options in attack � something that was greatly lacking in the Tri-Nations decider last year.
Manly�s Steven Bell is the Test bolter after some excellent early season form and should partner Mark Gasnier in the centres. With Matt Sing�s representative status yet again cloudy (he�s been retiring from representative football for two years now), do not be surprised to see the selectors take a gamble and pick two centres on the flank for the Test as they look to trial some combinations for the Tri-Nations Series at the end of the year. Justin Hodges and Timana Tahu may have missed some football this season through injury but both are great players and have had experience on the wing before. And in the games they have played they have been superb.
Up front Steven Price and Petero Civoniceva pick themselves with sensational starts to the season, while Willie Mason can cover the third prop spot easily. Nathan Hindmarsh and Luke O�Donnell will team up in the second row unless Craig Fitzgibbon hits a purple patch in the next fortnight. However Fitzgibbon won�t miss out entirely as he will be on the bench if fit (should he not come up then Steve Simpson, Jason Ryles and Ben Ross will come into calculations).
Then there is Ben Kennedy rounding out the pack � if he decides to play one last test with Joey that is. He is a certainty if he makes himself available, but if he chooses to retire then do not be surprised to see Trent Barrett come into the team at lock and either Bowen or Wing make way for another big man on the bench.
Whichever side is selected it should be a stronger unit than the one the New Zealanders completely outplayed in the Tri-Nations decider in 2005.
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ROUND 6 LEADERBOARD
48 � Johnathan Thurston, NQL
46 � Danny Buderus, NEW
44 � Matthew Bowen, NQL
44 � Petero Civoniceva, BRI
44 � Steven Price, WAR
44 � Milton Thaiday, NEW