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July 14th, 2018 by admin

Senior Kangaroos back Andrew Fifita, Semi Radradra axe, says Johnathan Thurston

Kangaroos great Johnathan Thurston says senior players not only supported the decision to omit Andrew Fifita and Semi Radradra, but drove the values that saw the controversial duo banished from Mal Meninga’s Four Nation’s squad.
Nanjing Night Net

The ARL Commission delivered the news that Fifita and Radradra were judged unfit for duty in green and gold, with Fifita under investigation from the NRL for his support of convicted killer Kieran Loveridge and Radradra facing domestic violence charges.

But the genesis for the move dates back earlier in the year, when the Australians went into camp for the Anzac Test with a squad that included Radradra.

With Meninga installed and trying to usher in a new era for the national side, leading playing figures were behind a renewed push to lift values and forge a stronger identity.

It was the kind of thing Meninga was famous for during his staggering run at the head of the Queensland State of Origin team, and while he has been careful not to try painting the Kangaroos maroon, senior players from both states were eager to up the ante when it comes to character and behavioural expectations.

“We’re trying to set high standards,” Thurston said. “Mal is all about setting and keeping high standards. The decision that Mal has made, I think the playing group fully supports.

“We’ve already had an Anzac Test where he has had a firm stance on what he wants the side to be known as, and the values he hopes we uphold. The playing group drove those values during that camp. He wants to keep those.

“Mal has come into this side and he wants to do something special with this team, this current group. He’s always said nobody is bigger than the team and the team always comes first. We support that decision.”

Also gone are two dominant back-rowers of the modern era, Paul Gallen and Corey Parker, with Gallen retiring from rep football and Parker hanging up the boots altogether.

It was a difficult call given their service in the jumper, and the fact both were still in strong form at the end of their NRL seasons. But Thurston said the players had complete faith in Meninga’s judgment.

“Those two boys, they’ve given their all in the Test jersey,” Thurston said. “It would have been nice to see them come over, but Mal is moving in a different direction. But those boys can hold their head up high about what they’ve given to the jersey.”

Thurston was on a media blitz in New Zealand on Wednesday morning after he was unveiled as one of the key faces of the Auckland Nines. It was another boost for the popular pre-season hitout, with the Cowboys star given the full celebrity treatment as he worked through a host of media commitments.

Cowboys coach Paul Green had been reluctant to let Thurston take part, given his value to the club, but said he relented for next year’s competition after Thurston changed his mind.

“Every year he’s always put pressure on me, being that attacking style suits his game, and I think he’d really flourish,” Green said. “Winning the inaugural tournament, I think the tournament holds a pretty special place in the club’s history.”

New Zealand journalists also pressed Thurston on the loyalties of young Cowboys star Kalyn Ponga, thought by many to be the game’s brightest prospect.

Ponga has a New Zealand father but was born and spent most of his life in Australia.

He has yet to decide his future in the game, as well as what country he represents, but Thurston may have broken a few Kiwi hearts when he said Ponga would play for Australia and potentially Queensland.

“I think he’s leapt towards the Kangaroos,” Thurston told New Zealand radio station Newshub. “He pretty much made [the decision] on his own. His family’s from here in New Zealand and he’s spent most of his time growing up in Queensland.

“He feels as though he’s an Aussie, he feels as though he’s a Queenslander, and I think that’s what got him over the line.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.