Australian Kangaroos fullback and captain James Tedesco could face displacement from the upcoming end-of-year Tests, suggested legendary rugby league player and Channel Nine commentator, Phil Gould. It remains uncertain who Australia will square off against in the international venue, with plans for a tri-series involving Australia, New Zealand, and Samoa yet to be confirmed.
Since his professional debut in 2018, Tedesco has been a mainstay in Australia’s line-up, revered as one of the finest players of his generation. Demonstrating his relentless prowess on the field, he was appointed as the Kangaroo’s captain this year.
However, the 30-year-old’s recent dip in form has led critics to question his place in the team, especially in his role as the New South Wales custodian during the recent State of Origin series. In light of this, current form players, Reece Walsh, Dylan Edwards, and Scott Drinkwater as well as the soon-to-return Ryan Papenhuyzen and Tom Trbojevic are pressuring Tedesco’s spot in the Test.
Gould, also serving as the Bulldogs’ general manager of football, suggested Australia coach Mal Meninga overlook Tedesco for his choice of fullbacks. He discussed his views on his Six Tackles With Gus podcast, stating he predicted the Test team will comprise of “those who last longest getting into the finals and grand finals.”
He specified Dylan Edwards, Reece Walsh or even Kalyn Ponga might be favoured if their respective teams make a significant impact during the final series. Gould also stated that despite injury, Tom Trbojevic may be able to return by the second or third week of semi-final matches, presenting a potential selection consideration.
Gould also claimed that Drinkwater’s claim to a Tests jersey would heavily rely on the progress of the Cowboys. Highlighting Tedesco’s impending off-season break, he reasoned that the selectors would potentially favour players in top form leading up to the finals.
Diverting attention to Latrell Mitchell, he commented that despite Mitchell’s prowess as a fullback, he has not consistently demonstrated his capabilities in crucial games. Without dismissing his dynamism, he suggested that the South Sydney star may be better suited to centre play.
Expanding on Mitchell’s performance, Gould suggested that despite Mitchell’s ability to decimate weaker teams, he needs to force himself into the game more frequently to defeat stronger opponents. He emphasised that while Mitchell successfully plays the position in his unique way, he needs to improve on his physical participation to influence the outcome of matches against formidable adversaries.
Gould agreed that part of Mitchell’s brilliance is his unpredictability. But he implied that to make a significant impact against top-tier teams, Mitchell will need to adapt his style with specific play techniques, such as early kicking, which would force him to interact with the game more. Ultimately, Gould believes an expanded role for the dynamic centre, who already boasts a successful tenure with the Roosters and impressive performances at the Origins, is in order.