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Premiership could make a Kangaroo

By Ben Horne 22/09/2010 08:13:28 PM Comments (0)

Rugby league great Brad Fittler says a premiership-winning performance by one of the NRL's grand final halves could be enough to secure an Australian Test jersey.

With Johnathan Thurston battling an ankle injury and doubtful to take his place in the squad, incumbent Cooper Cronk is hoping for first crack in the Four Nations.

But in-form stars Scott Prince, Mitchell Pearce, Todd Carney and Jamie Soward are still alive in the finals series, and Fittler believes an inspired grand final display could earn them selection and perhaps even an edge over Cronk.

"No doubt ... it shows you can handle pressure, so it'll be interesting. There's going to be an opportunity," Fittler said.

"Johnathan Thurston doesn't look like he's ready to play so there'll be an opportunity there somewhere."

Cronk recently underwent elbow surgery but is expected to be fully fit for the Test campaign.

Working against him is Melbourne's forced absence from this year's finals, but travelling on last year's tour and playing strongly for Queensland should ensure coach Tim Sheens gives him shot at the No.7 jersey.

Team vice-captain Cameron Smith said the halfback dilemma is a difficult one for selectors but sung the praises of Storm team-mate Cronk.

"It's a tough one because Scott Prince has been playing pretty well, Toddy Carney has had a pretty good year obviously," said Smith, who agreed that a premiership-winning performance from Prince, Carney or Pearce could have an impact.

"No doubt. It certainly won't hurt their chances. Taking a side to a premiership and playing well throughout the whole year (helps) but in the end it's going to be what the coach thinks is the best make-up for the side.

"But Cooper has played State of Origin this year and I think he's built for rep football.

"I think Cooper's a very consistent player - you know what you're going to get from him every week ... I'm thinking he's going to be there somewhere."

Although he'd be desperately unlucky to miss out on the squad altogether, 26-year-old Cronk admits he is at risk of being "out of sight out of mind" for selectors given the Storm's fortunes this year.

But the hard-working half is confident he has the runs on the board to get the nod to partner Darren Lockyer in the playmaking department.

"I think every player would love first crack," Cronk said.

"The green and gold jersey, I've been lucky enough to wear it a few times, I hold it in very high regard.

"Out of sight out of mind but I think what I've done throughout the season and hopefully I've gone alright in the rep games I've done before, so time will tell but we'll just see how it all pans out."

Kangaroos skipper Lockyer has built an unstoppable halves combination with Thurston for Queensland and Australia, but said he'll have no problem adapting to another halfback if required.

"Whatever the team is that is selected, whether it's someone I've played with or haven't, I'll make it work," he said.

"We've got some depth in that position ... there's plenty of guys there playing at the moment who are doing a good job. And there's incumbents in Thurston and Cronk depending on how their fitness is."

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