RUGBY LEAGUE: The race to replace Johnathan Thurston in the Kangaroos No.6 jersey is "wide open" with Michael Morgan, Cameron Munster and James Maloney jostling to be Cooper Cronk's playmaking partner.
Munster yesterday was named in Australia's 24-man squad for the upcoming World Cup, capping a remarkable season for the Melbourne magician who made one of the great State of Origin debuts for Queensland.
Cowboys shot-caller Morgan was the form player of the NRL finals series, while Maloney earned a spot in the squad despite Cronulla's failed premiership defence.
Thurston, a 38-Test veteran, will miss the World Cup because of a shoulder injury, with Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga yet to decide who would step into his void.
"It is wide open," he said.
"We've got three candidates who are fantastic players.
"Cameron Munster is part of the Storm and Queensland spine which was highly successful.
"Michael Morgan is arguably the best half in the competition at the moment.
"I've got a lot of respect for James Maloney. He is a winner. He will put pressure on everyone in that six jersey.
"We're lucky. We will assess it and talk to the players as well.
"Cameron (Smith), Cooper and Billy (Slater) had a say in Origin three when Cameron (Munster) got the nod at six and Michael played centre.
"It's important that the players buy into whatever decision is made as well. I look forward to talking to them when we get into camp."
The 23-year-old Munster had a sensational debut for the Maroons, and Meninga could now transplant that spine into green and gold to give the Kangaroos an instant head start in the World Cup.
Munster's selections caps one of rugby league's great rags-to-riches stories after he was continually overlooked for representative teams throughout his junior career before catching the eye of Storm scouts while playing in the Intrust Super Cup for CQ Capras.
"It would mean the world to represent my country," Munster said.
"It's one thing to play Origin, but to wear the green-and-gold jumper would be the ultimate.
"Michael Morgan and Jimmy Maloney are pushing for the five-eighth spot ... but I wouldn't let the jumper down.
"To make my Origin debut was a dream come true, so this has been a great year for myself and I'm soaking it up."
Broncos halfback Ben Hunt earned a recall to the Kangaroos fold after last representing Australia in the 2014 Four Nations.
Hooker Andrew McCullough's season-ending knee injury saw Hunt replace him at dummy-half and his form for the Broncos caught the eye of Kangaroos selectors.
"Versatility," Meninga said when asked about Hunt's selection.
"He plays his role there. He did a pretty good job at nine for the Broncos and played 14 for the Maroons as well (in Origin 3).
"He will be very dangerous from the bench in a Test match."
The Kangaroos begin their World Cup campaign against England at AAMI Park on October 27.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.