James Tedesco may have played his last game in a Kangaroos jersey, with calls growing louder for the veteran fullback to make way for one of the up-and-coming No.1s of the game. Mal Meninga stuck strong with Tedesco for the Pacific Championships, remaining loyal to his captain and long-time fullback.
But there have been calls for months for Tedesco to be given the flick given the form of Dylan Edwards, Kalyn Ponga and Reece Walsh over the last few years. Given the Kangaroos' embarrassing loss at the hands of New Zealand on Saturday, there are likely to be several changes when Meninga picks his next side.
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The loyalty and faith Meninga placed in veteran players will likely evaporate, with Daly Cherry-Evans also likely to have played his last game for Australia. The 34-year-old earned his spot due to a knee injury suffered by Nathan Cleary, but the Panthers halfback will have dibs on the Kangaroos No.7 jersey for the next decade.
And with the likes of Edwards, Ponga and Walsh banging down the door, it's likely we won't see Tedesco at the highest level for much longer. Meninga opted to use Edwards on the wing for the Pacific Championship, but hinted that the Panthers fullback was first cab off the rank to replace Tedesco in the No.1.
"Versatility is really important at the rep level, there's no doubt about that," the Kangaroos coach said before Saturday's final. "Dylan is a great fella and he's a highly intelligent player. He did start his career on the wing for Penrith, he got his first shot at first-grade on the wing, and he's handled it really well.
"His footy IQ is enormous. Obviously he's great under the high ball and his kick-reception work, which he does at fullback anyway, is really strong, and he's got a good sense defensively.
"He deserves to be there. He's just been hanging on the fringe because of James Tedesco. I'm a big fan of James and what he's done in the game, so that's got to be respected. His (Edwards') form in the NRL in the last few years deserves an opportunity to play representative football."
Has James Tedesco played his last game for Kangaroos?
Channel 9's NRL insider 'The Mole' was among the many calling for Tedesco to get the axe after the Kangaroos' 30-0 thrashing. "Tedesco has been a brilliant servant to the Roosters, New South Wales and Australia over many years - but his best football is now behind him and there are more creative and dynamic fullbacks in the game waiting for their chance," he wrote on Sunday. "The likes of Kalyn Ponga and Reece Walsh are the future of the Australian fullback spot and one of them is certain to inherit the No.1 jersey in 2024."
Ponga won the Dally M medal as best player in the NRL in 2023, while Edwards and Walsh led the Panthers and Broncos to the grand final. Edwards has played in four-consecutive grand finals (winning three of them), while also taking out the Clive Churchill medal as best player in the decider in 2022.
The Kangaroos' loss was the biggest losing margin in Australia's Test history, surpassing 24-point losses (also against the Kiwis) in 1952 and 2005. Meninga said the result "hurt" and would be well received by the international rugby league world.
"Everyone loves to see us lose and we've done that," Meninga said. "We've made everyone happy. Obviously (the result) will shock the rugby league world in the manner we lost and the scoreline, but we will come back with redemption at the end of next year. We made heaps of errors. That is a reflection of how New Zealand played. They were the better side and deserved their victory."
— InvestorInPlay (@InvestorInPlay) November 5, 2023
When does Reecy Walsh get a run? FB seems to be a spot he can fill
— SRC (@esrcee) November 5, 2023
I absolutely adore James Tedesco as a player.
He is IMO in the top 5 fullbacks I’ve ever seen & has done it all.
Unfortunately i think his days as a representative fullback are over.
He’s lost that edge that separated him from the rest.
Time to call it a day Teddy.
— The Oracle (@BigOtrivia) November 4, 2023
Mal Meninga has been found out:
- Tedesco been drek all season
- Val hasn't played in over a month
- Cotter can't move sideways and is a pure middle
- Edwards on the wing ffs
- Staggs has one good game in every three
- Liam Martin is lazy
- Yeo can't play out of club system
— Off-season Dan (@suthodan) November 4, 2023
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