Mal Meninga's revelation about Daly Cherry-Evans amid Nathan Cleary Kangaroos debate

The Australian coach has two lethal weapons that he can use at halfback in the end-of-year Tests.

Mal Meninga, pictured here with Nathan Cleary and Daly Cherry-Evans.
Mal Meninga must decide between Nathan Cleary and Daly Cherry-Evans for Kangaroos halfback. Image: Getty

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga has revealed he will pick Daly Cherry-Evans in his squad for the end-of-year Tests, despite Nathan Cleary seemingly having his nose in front to be the Australian halfback. Cherry-Evans and Cleary both played a huge part of the Kangaroos' triumph at the Rugby League World Cup last year, but Cleary eventually got the nod at No.7 for the business end of the tournament.

Speaking last week, Cherry-Evans conceded that Cleary would probably be the starting halfback once again for Australia's Test matches against Samoa and New Zealand later this year. But on Thursday, Meninga said Cherry-Evans was still firmly in his calculations.

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A number of NRL teams will have their seasons officially ended this weekend, and Meninga will begin naming players from those teams in his 20-man squad. The Kangaroos will play Samoa on October 14 and New Zealand on October 28.

“I reckon 'Chez' has had his best year, and we are picking a squad,” Meninga said on Thursday, according to “I haven’t had a chat with the other selectors but Daly and Nathan are the best two No.7s so I assume that if he is available, he will get selected.

“Chez can also play No.6, or he can play No.9, so his versatility adds to the strength of picking him. He could be a terrific No.14.”

Speaking last week, Cherry-Evans said: "I definitely came back extremely motivated that I had lost the Australian halfback jersey. So that's definitely fuelled this season.

"No doubt about it. If I get dropped, I want to get back in there. I'm always ambitious to play rep footy. But I do understand where I stand on the pecking order. Nath (Cleary) is probably the first priority for Australia, and I get that."

Nathan Cleary and Daly Cherry-Evans.
Nathan Cleary and Daly Cherry-Evans in State of Origin. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Mal Meninga to pick James Tedesco over Reece Walsh

Meninga's suggestion that Cherry-Evans could win a spot on the bench comes after he flagged the same possibility for Reece Walsh. The Broncos youngster has been in irresistible form this year, with many calling for him to replace James Tedesco as Kangaroos fullback.

But Meninga revealed he will stick with Tedesco, not that Walsh will be completely overlooked. "Versatility is really key for picking squads for the Kangaroos," Meninga said last month. "Reece can play fullback and I know he can play in the halves as well. It will be interesting to see whether he can put his head in the scrum and play 13, because that is what you need.

"You need a player who plays 14, or a player who sits on your reserves (bench) who can play a number of positions. That will be spoken about at the selectors' meeting, but (Walsh) is certainly putting pressure on being in the team itself. So is Dylan Edwards and Kalyn Ponga … and Ryan Papenhuyzen is coming back. There are plenty of fullbacks around who can play a number of positions."

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