James Tedesco has addressed his controversial inclusion in the Kangaroos squad for the Pacific Championships, admitting he never considered skipping the Tests to spend more time with his wife and newborn. Mal Meninga stuck solid with Tedesco when he announced his 21-man squad on Tuesday, despite calls for the fullback to be axed in favour of one of the in-form No.1s in the competition.
Kalyn Ponga, Reece Walsh and Dylan Edwards all enjoyed sensational seasons in the NRL, but none of them managed to crack the Kangaroos squad. Ponga recently won the Dally M Medal, while Walsh and Edwards helped their teams make the NRL grand final.
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But Tedesco, who endured a sub-par season compared to his standards, was the only specialist fullback included in Meninga's squad for games against Samoa and New Zealand. Meninga instead opted to pick a number of outside backs who can cover fullback if necessary - namely Valentine Holmes, Selwyn Cobbo and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow.
NRL fans and commentators were left gobsmacked that none of Ponga, Walsh or Edwards managed to make the squad, while many were also fuming over Tedesco's inclusion. Addressing the situation on Tuesday, the Kangaroos captain told AAP: "Every team has a gun player who can play international footy.
"I'm grateful to be Australian captain and fullback in the era of fullbacks that we have. I know every year there's guys who have great years that are pushing for a spot. While I'm here and while I have the jersey, I'm going to make the most of it."
Tedesco could have been forgiven for sitting out the end-of-year Tests given his hectic workload over the last two years and the fact he and wife Maria only recently welcomed their first child - daughter Rosie. But Tedesco said he wanted to put playing for his country first, considering his days in a Kangaroos jersey could be numbered.
"I always knew I would be in this situation at the end of the year with Tests and the baby due," he said. "You don't get these opportunities that come along and Maria is really supportive, so if I'm in a position to play for Australia and captain Australia then I'm going to take it."
James Tedesco addresses Latrell Mitchell situation
Another fullback who isn't in the squad is Latrell Mitchell, who lined up in the centres when Australia won the World Cup last year. The Souths fullback is unavailable due to a hand injury, even though he played in the Koori Knockout carnival last weekend.
"He is so talented and you put him in this team every time," Tedesco said. "I don't know what the situation was and why he couldn't play. We'll miss him. In the centres as well you can give him the ball and he can create something out of nothing, which he did numerous times for us last year."
Meninga admitted on Tuesday that he was "surprised" to hear Mitchell wasn't available. "South Sydney Rabbitohs said he was out because of injury. We have just gone with that," the coach said.
"I was a bit surprised, but I think the club gave him permission to [play the Koori Knockout]. Knowing Latrell, he loves the Koori Knockout, he always gets involved. A very proud First Nations person. He has got through that tournament well and I look forward to him having a good off-season."
The Kangaroos will play Samoa in Townsville on October 14, before a clash with New Zealand in Melbourne on October 28. The final will be played the following week in Hamilton.
The Dally M player of the year - apparently the best in the NRL - Kalyn Ponga can’t make the Kangaroos. Joke. Walsh, Edwards, Ponga and Latrell are ALL way ahead of Teddy it’s not funny.
— Hatchet Harry (@karavaninaditch) October 3, 2023
No Ponga no Walsh no Edwards. Ado Carr still in despite his disgraceful season !!! What a joke
— Rob. 🇦🇺 (@rob_freddy) October 2, 2023
Tell me where either Ponga, Edwards or Walsh are. If they’re injured then fair enough. If not then it’s embarrassing on MM part
— Bradley Clarke (@Bradley__Clarke) October 3, 2023
Kangaroos squad for Pacific Championship Tests:
Josh Addo-Carr (Bulldogs)
Patrick Carrigan (Broncos)
Daly Cherry-Evans (Sea Eagles)
Nathan Cleary (Panthers)
Selwyn Cobbo (Broncos)
Lindsay Collins (Roosters)
Reuben Cotter (Cowboys)
Tino Fa’asuamaleaui (Titans)
Thomas Flegler (Broncos)
Harry Grant (Storm)
Payne Haas (Broncos)
Valentine Holmes (Cowboys)
Ben Hunt (Dragons)
Liam Martin (Panthers)
Cameron Munster (Storm)
Cameron Murray (Rabbitohs)
Kotoni Staggs (Broncos)
Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow (Dolphins)
James Tedesco (Roosters)
Jake Trbojevic (Sea Eagles)
Isaah Yeo (Panthers)
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