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3 days ago
Kangaroos coach Ricky Stuart took the unusual action of telephoning Titans halfback Scott Prince to personally explain why he was overlooked as the standby player for injured Test No.7 Johnathan Thurston.
The decision to rush Cooper Cronk into the squad after Thurston put himself in doubt by rolling his left ankle at training was not totally unexpected given he played halfback in Australia's 58-0 drubbing of the Kiwis last October when Greg Bird stood in at five-eighth for Darren Lockyer.
With only 24 hours of preparation time, Cronk's combination with Storm teammates Cameron Smith, Greg Inglis and Billy Slater also came into play.
Titans managing director Michael Searle revealed Stuart had contacted Prince to explain the reasons why he was not drafted into the Australian camp in Sydney.
"Scott has spoken to Ricky Stuart and understands the reasons behind the decision," Searle said.
"He's now very focused on winning selection for Queensland Origin."
Titans coach John Cartwright, who is Stuart's assistant, and who'd spoken out about Prince's representative claims, preferred not to comment on the choice of Thurston's standby.
"The selectors have made a decision and we've got a game to win," said Cartwright from within the Kangaroos' Sydney camp.
Australian and Queensland selector Des Morris said the decision to call Cronk into the Kangaroos squad ahead of Prince was not a black mark against the Gold Coast playmaker.
Morris said Prince was still well in the running to be selected in Queensland's 17-man State of Origin squad which will be announced next Tuesday.
Queensland selectors could be facing the unthinkable next week when they pick their team - going into the Origin battle without the game's best two players, Lockyer and Thurston.
"Scott is still very much in our discussions," Morris said.
"He's one of the form players of the competition and he's just unlucky because there really wasn't time to work a player in and Cronk played in the last Test.
"Cronk has also been playing very well for Melbourne."
North Queensland already suffered a major blow this week with dynamic attacking fullback Matt Bowen ruled out for two to three weeks with a knee injury.
Leading bookmakers quickly suspended betting on Saturday night's NRL clash between the North Queensland and Cronulla once news of Thurston's injury filtered through.