Kangaroos No.1 jersey an open race - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Kangaroos No.1 jersey an open race

By Wayne Heming 09/04/2008 03:54:28 PM Comments (0)

Past Australian fullback greats are split on the intriguing jostle for the No.1 jumper in next month's Centenary Test clash with New Zealand.

It's been some time since the Kangaroo fullback position has been so hotly contested or divided so many opinions.

But a month out from the Test at the historic SCG to celebrate the first clash between the two countries in 1908, incumbent Brett Stewart, Karmichael Hunt, Billy Slater, Matt Bowen, Anthony Minichiello and Luke Patten are all in the fullback frame.

Support has been building for Storm wizard Slater who's been in exhilarating early form along with the dynamic Stewart.

Former Manly custodian Graham "Wombat" Eadie said the looming fullback battle between Slater (Melbourne) and Stewart (Manly) in Friday's grand final re-match at Olympic Park could "tip one of them over the line".

"It looks a race in three really between Hunt, Billy Slater and Brett Stewart," suggested Eadie, a powerful attacking fullback who wore the No.1 jumper in 12 Tests during the 1970s.

"Billy's been in great form. He's quick, he's setting up tries and he's saving them with his exciting pace.

"His problem is Queensland selectors don't pick him, it's a bit like Matty Bowen."

"It's hard when you state doesn't pick you."

Retired Balmain fullback and 20 Test veteran Garry Jack likes what he's seen of Slater this season.

"Billy Slater is on fire at the moment although they don't always pick players on form," Jack told AAP.

"So far, and we're only talking four weeks, he's got the runs on the board and he's playing outstanding football.

"Stewart produced his best game last weekend and any of those guys, Hunt, Slater, Minichiello would do a great job.

"You could even throw in Kurt Gidley, Luke Patten and Brett Hodgson who don't rate a mention."

One of Queensland's best fullbacks Gary Belcher, who played 15 Tests and diced with Jack for the green and gold No.1 jumper in the late 1980s, said the race was wide open.

"I'm a big fan of all of them but I wouldn't be surprised if the incumbent got the nod given that he's playing superbly," said Belcher.

"You like to think selectors stay loyal but Karmichael was there until he got injured.

"The most recent performance is the most vivid though so therefore Brett Stewart has to be hard to knock over."

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