Mal Meninga makes eye-opening call on picking James Tedesco or Dylan Edwards for Kangaroos

Meninga says form and loyalty will be of equal focus when he picks his next Australian side.

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga says regardless of who is selected moving forward for the Blues it won't affect who he picks for Australia. Blues coach Michael Maguire faced an impossible decision on whether to pick James Tedesco or Penrith star Dylan Edwards in his first Origin team and boldly chose to axe the Kangaroos fullback.

Tedesco initially being snubbed for the Blues team marked the first time the current Australian Kangaroos captain had ever been dumped from their respective State of Origin team. But with Edwards suffering a quad strain at training on Saturday, Maguire turned straight back to Tedesco and rushed him into the squad ahead of Game I on Wednesday.

Pictured L-R: Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga, James Tedesco, Dylan Edwards
Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga says loyalty will play a major factor in the team he selects at the end of the year. Image: Getty

Maguire's call to select Edwards was a gutsy one and a decision that showcased what he said when he signed on for the NSW job, that he would pick solely on form and not loyalty. But Meninga says the Blues coach's selection stance couldn't be further from his for the Kangaroos, telling The Daily Telegraph that form and loyalty are of equal importance. And in the biggest indication that fullback and skipper Tedesco will likely retain his Kangaroos jersey, the former Queensland Maroons coach said the team will be selected on those who have performed for Australia in the past and those players who are currently at the top of their game in the NRL.

Meninga said while he believes Edwards had "earned the right (to play State of Origin)" that his Australian side won't be picked based on the future it will be on loyalty and NRL form. "It doesn’t mean too much at all to be honest with you (the Blues team selection). We will be picking on form and loyalty and not so much on the future," Meninga said.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 03: James Tedesco warms up during a New South Wales Blues State of Origin Training Session at NSWRL Centre of Excellence on June 03, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)
James Tedesco was rushed into the Blues squad after Dylan Edwards was ruled out of Game I.

"That’s how I think representative teams should be picked. It’s not about the future – it’s about the here and now." The pair aren’t the only fullbacks in contention for the Kangaroos No.1 jersey, with Meninga saying Maroons star Reece Walsh, Dally M medallist Kalyn Ponga and Storm star Ryan Papenhuyzen are also in the running for the Kangaroos fullback spot.

Prior to missing selection for Game I, Tedesco had featured in 22 straight matches for the Blues, dating back to his debut in the final game of the 2016 series. And while being overlooked would surely have hurt the former Blues captain, Tedesco dismissed suggestions he has a point to prove after his initial axing. "I don't think that's my mentality," he said.

"My mentality is doing what's best for the team, playing my best footy and creating the win. That's the most important thing for me. We're at home, our first game here, it's really important to win that first game. You get off to a good start and that's definitely my goal at the moment.

While the circumstances are unique for Tedesco ahead of Game I, the Roosters star says he is ready to go. "I've played in a couple of these before, so I know what it takes. I've played with most of these guys or I've been in camps with pretty much all of them, It's not like I don't know any of them," he said.


"I know how most of these guys play and I know them on a personal level, so that definitely helps coming into camp. I've got a couple of training sessions with them together, so just building that connection. But it is a different preparation than I've had before."