State against state, mate against mate, candidate against candidate?
Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens says this year’s State of Origin series should double as genuine Test trials as selectors ponder Generation Next in the wake of their trans-Tasman defeat.
Sheens did not want to speculate on the future of the ageing Kangaroos line-up as the dust settled on their 26-12 loss to New Zealand at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday night.
But the off-contract Australian mentor admitted, with 12 months to wait for their next international and the 2017 World Cup looming after that, this year’s Origin series takes on an extra dimension.
“I think the State of Origin series becomes very important for us. You have two Australian sides potentially playing one another,” he said.
“I know both coaches will be looking at a certain mixture of players.
“There will be an element of young players that we need to look at.”
The jury is out on who in the current team will survive to the World Cup but it seems a dramatic change looms for a Kangaroos line-up that is set to be toppled as world No.1 by a flourishing New Zealand this year.
Selectors picked the third-oldest Kangaroos team ever for Sunday’s Test, despite overlooking veteran centre Justin Hodges.
The average age of Australia’s key “spine” players is 30 compared to New Zealand’s 24.
The Kangaroos fielded six players on Sunday night aged 30 or more with another two set to join that group la^ter this year.
Sheens admitted selectors had a challenge ahead launching a succession plan for what he described a “once in a generation group”.
“It is a discussion point that has got to be looked at by a lot of people and with no football until this time next year it’s a difficult one – when are you going to play them,” he said.
“We don’t play another Test for another 12 months.”
Sheens would not comment on whether he wanted to retain the reins when his contract expires at the end of the year.
All he knew is Australia had plenty to improve on ahead of their next trans-Tasman clash against a New Zealand team that looks set to be boasting the world No.1 ranking.
The Kiwis are guaranteed top spot if they beat England in an end-of-year, best-of-three series.
“We did make every possible mistake that we could have possibly have made in the first half,” Sheens said.
“But there are no excuses.
“We prepared well, we started well, we just didn’t execute it or finish it and defended poorly on our own line when we gave away penalties.”
Kangaroos captain Cameron Smith hinted that change could start with their side’s attitude.
“The last three matches (against New Zealand) are almost identical, we start well but for some reason we think we have won the game after one try,” he said of Australia which jumped to a 6-2 lead thanks to an early Sam Thaiday try.
“Then they put on some tries and we are chasing our tail.”