Mal Meninga hits back at Reece Walsh Origin criticism amid looming James Tedesco decision

The incumbent fullback has faced plenty of criticism over his representative form.

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga has hit back at a question regarding who is the favourite to take the Australian No.1 jersey after James Tedesco's State of Origin snub. Meninga has often favoured loyalty in his selection process for Australia with the national side dominating the international scene with Tedesco the incumbent captain and fullback.

Tedesco held out competition from Dylan Edwards and Reece Walsh at the end of last year when Australia played in the Pacific Championship. However, having made the finals, New Zealand thrashed the Kangaroos 30-0 and it prompted huge calls for a shake-up to the Aussie team.

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga (pictured right) is facing a huge call to who takes the Australian No.1 jersey after James Tedesco's (pictured left) State of Origin snub. (Getty Images)
Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga (pictured right) is facing a huge call to who takes the Australian No.1 jersey after James Tedesco's (pictured left) State of Origin snub. (Getty Images)

And to make matters tougher for Tedesco, he was dropped from the Blues side for Edwards in Game 2. Edwards had a stellar debut for NSW in their 38-18 demolition of Queensland having scored a try. Walsh had a terrible night in Melbourne, despite many believing the 21-year-old should be talking over Tedesco as the new Kangaroos fullback.

Competition for the No.1 jersey is fierce and SEN Radio host Jimmy Smith wanted to get Kangaroos coach Meninga's thoughts on who is leading the race to grab the coveted position after Origin Game 2. However, Meninga was in no mood to discuss who was favourite, in his mind, to play fullback for the Kangaroos.

Ahead of Origin Game 2, Meninga said representative footy would be the biggest factor in deciding who would win out on the jersey. "I am the Australian coach...I have to be very careful what I say now. There is still Game 3 to go. I am not going to publicly announce, because the way the Blues played last night that Dylan Edwards will be fullback. I am never going to say that," Meninga hit back at the question.

While Edwards and Walsh appear to be the frontrunners, he refused to rule out incumbent Tedesco getting another crack at the role. "You are fighting the fire...we are going to sit down at the end of the year and make some judgements on form, loyalty and finals footy...that is very important in club land," he added. "We will make all those decisions at the end of the year."

Reece Walsh dejected.
Reece Walsh (pictured) has endured a tough State of Origin series so far.

Tedecso appears set to lose his fullback and captaincy role for the national side with Edwards and Walsh proving to be in better form across the last 12 months. Although Walsh hasn't escaped criticism in recent weeks having failed to find the form that earned him the Maroons No.1 jersey last year.

At the beginning of the week, before the Blues demolished the Maroons, Meninga admitted the disappointment of Australia's loss to New Zealand had prompted thoughts about changes. “After what happened last year, we've got to look at where we're heading with the Kangaroos and I have to place a fair bit of importance this year on rep footy,” he said.

"Laurie's a selector as well, and we sat down, we had a look at where we were heading with the Kangaroos, Tedesco was the incumbent, and he hasn't let his team, his state or his country down before. We've got so many great fullbacks and some of our great players are fullbacks in this day and age and when you get to the elite level, then sometimes you’ve just got to find a spot for them.”


Walsh has come under criticism since his Game 2 performance with the youngster overplaying his hand at times to try and get the Maroons back into the contest having gone down 34-0 at half-time. Menginga did mention there is still the decider of Origin to look forward to with Walsh and Edwards going head-to-head, which could decide the future Kangaroos fullback.