Big Mal faces big decisions
RUGBY LEAGUE: Following the revelation that Mal Meninga and Wayne Bennett are no longer friends, maybe Big Mal needs help from other quarters when picking his team for this weekend's Four Nations clash with the Kiwis.
I am, of course, jesting - not about the fractured relationship between the two ex-coppers who found rugby league glory together with Brisbane Souths, the Raiders and Maroons. I am jesting about Mal needing a hand with his selections.
A rookie Kangaroos coach he may be, yet he is unbeaten after three starts and won nine of 10 series as Queensland Origin coach. And, following Saturday morning's win over rugby league minnows Scotland, the big bloke will know exactly who will suit up against New Zealand early next Sunday morning (AEST).
But even with that line-up more than likely settled, surely he won't mind a journo acquaintance of almost four decades conveying some advice. Then, maybe I'll no longer be a mate either, seeing he is apparently cutting back on his cartel of friends.
But I digress.
Sure the Kangaroos won handsomely in the end against Scotland - 54-12 is a good result, despite the quality of the opposition. But Meninga would not have been overly happy with some aspects of the game against Scotland.
Such was their domination early that after half an hour it appeared Australia might have to declare. They handled the usual opening ferocity with calm assuredness, completing their first eight sets and scoring a couple of magnificent team tries.
But when skipper Cameron Smith hit the bench at half-time, the match plan went out the window. Those in key playmaking roles seemingly panicked and at times the Kangaroos looked like a rabble.
And while a couple of the debutants - in particular Matt Moylan and Jake Trbojevic - were outstanding, the coach is likely to stick solid with the tried and tested against the Kiwis.
But a couple of guys are testing Meninga's renowned pick and stick policy - the loyalty strategy that was the recipe for him turning the Maroons into a monolith. And among those are two of his favourites - Sam Thaiday and Michael Morgan.
Despite making a team-high 34 tackles, Thaiday was barely sighted against the Scots. Morgan also had little impact and his form slump has lasted a while now.
Like all coaches, Meninga looks for impact from his bench and a decision may come down to which of Thaiday, Morgan, Moylan and David Klemmer will best deliver that component.
Centre is another area of concern and while Justin O'Neill had limited opportunities against Scotland, Meninga might be tempted to pair him with Josh Mansour, who was sensational at the weekend.
For what it's worth, my Kangaroos line-up for next weekend would be: Darius Boyd, Valentine Holmes, Greg Inglis, Justin O'Neill, Josh Mansour, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Matt Scott, Cameron Smith, Aaron Woods, Matt Gillett, Boyd Cordner, Trent Merrin. Interchange: Shannon Boyd, Tyson Frizell, David Klemmer, Matt Moylan.