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Slater should be No.1 for Roos: Smith

By Todd Balym and Ed Jackson 28/09/2009 07:31:17 PM Comments (0)

He's the NRL's form player of 2009 but Cameron Smith doesn't know if he could find a spot for Dally M medallist Jarryd Hayne in the Australian Test team.

The Melbourne skipper said incumbent and Storm fullback Billy Slater deserved to retain his Kangaroos No.1 jumper for the Four Nations tour, and then struggled to even find a spot on the wing for the game's man of the moment.

"It's hard because I think the team that was picked earlier in the year did a very good job against New Zealand, but it's going to be hard job to leave him out isn't it," said Smith.

"I think Billy's form throughout the year, he's done enough to hold on to his spot no matter that the result is on the weekend.

"That's not taking anything away from Jarryd, he's played some extraordinary football but I think Billy's done enough to keep his number one spot."

Parramatta star Hayne collected a record six successive man of the match awards on his way to winning the game's highest accolade the Dally M medal this year.

He has led the Eels to a grand final appearance against the Storm, who with Slater in the hottest tryscoring form of his career have reached their fourth straight decider.

Smith admitted his side had never confronted a grand final opponent in better form than Hayne.

"I think he's been playing some enthralling football and at times really doing stuff on the footy field you wouldn't think any player would be able to do," said Smith.

"Their attack revolves around him and he creates a lot of opportunities for his side out of nothing."

Sunday's grand final shapes as a colossal battle between two of the game's most exciting fullbacks and best entertainers.

Test coach Tim Sheens has the difficult job next week of culling Australia's best into a 22-man touring party, but there is no doubt whatsoever that Hayne will be among the team.

Hayne admitted on Monday he still has some work to do to replace Slater as the game's premier No.1.

"I'm the challenger and I'm the one that wants to be the No.1 fullback in the game," said Hayne.

"It's a challenge and it's exciting."

Eels captain Nathan Cayless said Slater was rising to the challenge posed by Hayne, but the former Kiwi captain admitted it would be difficult for anyone to displace the Australian custodian.

"He's trying to prove to everyone that he's still the No.1 fullback in the game because Haynesy's getting a bit of the spotlight," said Cayless.

"It's pretty hard to knock anyone out of position in the Australian team.

"Obviously Haynesy's going to be in the team there somewhere but whether it will be at fullback or not?

"I think Billy has been the best fullback over the last few years and he's the incumbent.

"The last game they played was the Anzac Test and he was outstanding and they towelled the Kiwis up. I don't really see them changing that."

Slater said his position in the Test side is "the furthest thing from my mind" and also wouldn't ponder whether he was in career-best form.

However, he was pleased with his latest performances in the team.

"I pride myself on every time I take the field," he said.

"It's a grand final, you want to play your best.

"I feel good at the moment. The team is playing good, everyone is playing their role.

"Tries come and tries go, that is just the way footy goes. It wouldn't worry me if I didn't score a try as long as I know I'm playing my role and doing my job in the team to be successful."

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