Karmichael wants to be a 'roo

Another major blow for the Kiwis league team ahead of next month's Tri Nations series in the UK.

Any hopes they may have had of convincing rising star Karmichael Hunt to play for his country of birth appear to be over.

Reports across the Tasman claim Hunt is an outside chance of being included in the Kangaroos squad, after pledging his allegiance to Australia.

New Zealand has already lost Stacey Jones, Stephen Kearney and Richard Swain to retirement. A Kangaroo test selection meeting on Monday to pick players from the seven clubs not involved in the finals for a train-on squad will discuss the merits of picking Hunt. He has featured in every match this season for the Broncos.

National chairman of selectors Les Geeves said that, in his view, Hunt was worthy of being in the likely 22-man squad for the seven-week tour, but the panel would be guided by the opinion of Brisbane and Australian coach Wayne Bennett.

"He's a brilliant player," Geeves said. "I think that he's good enough to go on the tour - whether he's in the first side or he just goes over for the experience - and compared to earlier in the season with the [Anzac] test and State of Origin, he's had more than 20 games of senior football and will play in the finals.

"But I always discuss with their coach whether they think they're up to it, and that goes right back to Gorden Tallis. The coaches know whether the young guys are ready or not, so I'll leave that up to Wayne."

Bennett earlier in the season was adamant that Hunt was too young to have to choose between the country of his birth and the one he has resided in since his family moved from Auckland to Brisbane when he was 12, or whether to play Origin for Queensland this season.

But he appears to have softened his stance in the wake of a letter from the NZRL last month seeking permission to speak to Hunt and teammate Tonie Carroll about making themselves available for New Zealand.

"Because of all the criticism we took before the Anzac test about trying to back-door Bennett and the suggestion that we tried to ambush Karmichael and the club, we wrote to them this time and asked for an opportunity to meet with both Tonie and Karmichael," NZRL general manager Peter Cordtz said.

"We haven't yet had any formal reply but the club has made it quite clear to us that neither of them is going to play for us, so it's not entirely surprising that Karmichael might be in the figuring for the Kangaroos."

Riolo said it was Hunt's goal to make the tour but Bennett had not discussed with him his chances of selection.

"He'd be disappointed if he wasn't considered," Riolo said. "It's different to earlier in the year, he'd only played four NRL matches when the Kiwis picked him but he's now an established first-grader, he's the only Bronco to have played every game and he's the club's leading tryscorer."

The Kiwis will now look to another of the NRL's rising stars, 19-year-old Wests Tigers five-eighth Benji Marshall, to be Jones' long-term replacement as playmaker.

0 Comments