Prospect of Test selection drives Dragons toward finals

Brett Morris (left) is a Test certainty, while Trent Merrin (centre) and Josh Dugan are on the rise after achieving Origin success. Picture: GETTY IMAGES
Brett Morris (left) is a Test certainty, while Trent Merrin (centre) and Josh Dugan are on the rise after achieving Origin success. Picture: GETTY IMAGES


The prospect of Test selection at season's end could prove the added incentive that propels the Dragons into the finals, with a number of the club's big names in the mix for the end-of-season Four Nations tournament.

The seven-match tournament will begin with a double-header at Suncorp Stadium on October 25, with matches in Melbourne and New Zealand before the Kangaroos' milestone first ever Test match in Wollongong, against Samoa on November 9.

Star winger Brett Morris is a near certainty to hold his spot on the wing for the Kangaroos, while wing partner and 19-Test veteran Jason Nightingale and centre Gerard Beale have strong claims to retain the Kiwi jerseys they wore in this year's mid-season Test.

NSW's State of Origin victory has also seen the stocks of Josh Dugan and Trent Merrin rise, with both well in the hunt for a maiden Test jumper.

Dugan's hugely successful switch to the centres has strengthened his claims, with Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens showing a willingness to shift players to fit his plans at Test level.

Sheens shifted Jarryd Hayne to centre to great effect in last year's World Cup triumph, while Greg Inglis is a regular in the Kangaroos' No3 jersey despite regularly starring at fullback for the Rabbitohs.

Dugan played down his chances in the lead-up to Sunday's match with Penrith, but said a Kangaroos jumper would be the realisation of a life-long dream.

"I'd definitely be honoured. It's always been a dream of mine to play for my country, and if that comes I'd grab it with both hands and relish it," Dugan said.

"But at the moment I'm just worried about my form for the Dragons and trying to get wins for the team and doing all the right things here."

He admitted his new-found ability to cover several positions would help his case at the selection table.

"It just goes to show that I am versatile and I can play a few positions," he said.

Dally M Medal contender Gareth Widdop is also certain to feature for England barring injury, but the Dragons' mid-season resurgence has also pressed the claims of prop Mike Cooper. Dragons coach Paul McGregor and Widdop have both endorsed the 25-year-old Warrington product's Test claims, which Cooper admits he hadn't entertained when he arrived in Wollongong.

"Coming into the start of the season it was never on my mind. I just wanted to get a place in the [Dragons] 17 at some point this year," Cooper said. "It would be a great honour to represent my country at the end of the year. I'm playing as best as I can and hopefully that puts me in the frame.

"I'll be really excited if I do get the call."


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