http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/rug...-in-inaugural-dream-team-20170715-gxbzxi.html Adrian Proszenko He was compared to the late, great Arthur Beetson after his game one heroics, but Andrew Fifita was subsequently so effectively shut down that he isn't considered one of the best 17 players in this year's State of Origin series. For the first time, Australian selectors have chosen a 'Kangaroos Merit Team' that acknowledges the best performers throughout the interstate series. The initiative is the brainchild of national coach Mal Meninga and has been endorsed by the Australian Rugby League Commission. The inaugural team, comprising just five Blues in the starting side, is sure to attract plenty of discussion and debate. Queenslanders take up nine of the 17 spots, with the NSW back row of Jake Trbojevic, Tyson Frizell and captain Boyd Cordner dominating the bench. Talking points will include the omission of game-one wrecking ball Fifita, James Maloney earning the five-eighth spot ahead of Johnathan Thurston and Cameron Munster, and the omission of game-three hero Valentine Holmes. Munster and Thurston played in only one of the three games, but made such an indelible impression that a case could be made for either of them to get the nod from Meninga and Australian selectors Bob Fulton and Darren Lockyer. However, the panel decided that players needed to be involved in at least two games to be eligible to ensure that form throughout the entire series was properly taken into consideration. Fifita played in all three games but was largely absent in the last two, particularly given he had made such a strong impact in the opener. Indeed, that performance underlined the Cronulla prop's reputation as a big-name player after being controversially overlooked for the Clive Churchill Medal in last year's grand final win. However, Fifita was so well contained for the rest of the series that he was overlooked in favour of David Klemmer and Dylan Napa as the two specialist props chosen. "In game two and three they nullified him," Meninga said. "And Woodsey [Aaron Woods] as well, his effort in game one was terrific. But when you look at the standout front-rowers of the series, over three games - and it's important that you look at criteria of how they performed over the whole period - Napa and Klemmer pipped them." Asked if consideration was given to Fifita on the strength of his opening game alone, Meninga said: "Absolutely, particularly on the bench. But then you look at picking the best of the best, the best 17. You put Andrew there, but then who misses out on the bench? "Trbojevic? Jackson? Frizell? Who can you put out? That's what you do, this brings out opinions." A total of 43 players were used throughout the series, a high number given the Blues stuck solid with their 17 throughout. The selectors analysed the performance of each before choosing a side that contained eight players from NSW. While other factors - including club form, finals performances and behavioural standards - will be considered before Australia names its Rugby League World Cup squad, Meninga said Maloney had the "inside running" for the season-ending internationals. "Absolutely. He already knows that, to be honest with you," Meninga said. "He played in the Four Nations last year, he was our shadow for John [Thurston] for the Test matches. There's nothing to suggest his form has lapsed, his club is near the top of the ladder and he's playing great footy for Cronulla. So he's got the inside running. "But a lot of things can happen. There is a criteria and Origin is one of those. "Jimmy Maloney was consistent and the most consistent of the three individual five-eighths used throughout the series. Jimmy Maloney was the standout No.6 that played every game. "His form in game one and two were pretty good and to be honest he wasn't the worst in game three. "He tried his butt off to spark NSW." Another Blue on Meninga's RLWC radar is James Tedesco, who beat Holmes for a wing spot. "Billy's [Slater] game two and three was enormous and Teddy's form through the whole series was great. So we found a spot for both of them," Meninga explained. "In the first game Val was a bit shaky but game three was a lot better. Teddy and Billy's form wasn't shaky, they deserve to be there in my opinion. "The versatility of players is important when you look at a 24-man squad. It's important they can play in their best position but versatility is a component. "If Billy is the fullback, Darius [Boyd] can do a job in the centres or at left wing. "I believe Teddy can do that too. I've seen him play centre at the last World Cup for Italy. He's certainly got the skills and the physique to play there." Meninga, who will consider Origin omissions Trent Merrin and Sam Thaiday for the upcoming Test program, said the choice of forwards caused most angst when selecting the merit team. "NSW was dominant for game one and half of game two, then it switched over and Queensland nullified them," he said. "That second effort in game two and dominant effort in game three gave me those other Queensland props. "Klemmer's series was fantastic, even in game three he was one of the better players. His form was very good. "In the back row, Wade Graham was good in game one but then you had [Matt] Gillett], and Gavin Cooper was unlucky not to make it with his performances in two or three. The forwards were a dilemma. Josh Jackson was man of the match in game two in a beaten side, so he deserves to be there somewhere. "Boyd Cordner through just pure effort and energy had to be there. Matt Gillett's performance in game III was unbelievable. It was difficult."