An easy selection ... Josh Morris. Photo: Getty Images
ONE of Canterbury's greatest sons said he would be shocked if predictions the Bulldogs may not get a single player in the Australian Test squad came true.
George Peponis, the Sydney doctor who captained the Dogs to their memorable grand final win in 1980, hopes the Bulldogs are not destined to enter the history books as the first Australia-based NRL grand final team to not have a player in the end-of-season Kangaroos team.
"I'd be very surprised if Josh Morris didn't make the Australian team," he said.
"I think he has been one of the best centres all year. He had an outstanding series in the State of Origin and he has been outstanding for us all year. I think he's a walk-up start. After that it's hard to move the incumbents out if they have done nothing wrong."
Peponis recalled the snub his Entertainers received in 1980.
"We won the grand final but didn't have one player in the Dally M team," he told The Sun-Herald.
"My very words when I accepted the Giltinan Shield were that 'we might not have had the best individuals in the competition but we sure have the best team in the competition'. To win the competition it's how you gel as a team, not individuals. Not one Canterbury team made the Dally M team but I'll tell you what I'd rather have - the competition.
''You work all year and for several years to achieve that and you do it collectively as a group and there is no better feeling."
Greg Brentnall, who played fullback in the legendary ''Entertainers'' team and who works for the Melbourne Storm as a development official, concedes the Bulldogs could struggle for recognition with selectors despite finishing the season as minor premiers and unleashing an ''exciting'' brand of football.
"I think that's probably the case," Brentnall replied when asked if Dogs fans, and their heroes, could be disappointed when the Australian team to play New Zealand in Townsville on October 13 was announced.
"I would see it that way, yeah. Really, when you look at it, [prop] Aiden Tolman might get the nod and Josh Morris is a standout, but I really can't see anyone else who is going to push themselves in.''
Apart from the two times the Auckland-based Warriors made the decider, no team since the NRL era began in 1998 has been totally snubbed by Kangaroos selectors. The Wests Tigers in 2005, their beaten grand final opponents North Queensland and the 1999 St George Illawarra side had one Australian representative each.
Tolman could snare a bench spot, but props James Tamou, Matt Scott, David Shillington and Ben Hannant, all members of the side which won the mid-year Test against the Kiwis, are likely to retain their spots. Two of the other incumbent members of that forward pack, back-rowers Sam Thaiday and David Taylor, are also capable of playing in the front row.
Another Canterbury forward, Sam Kasiano, has previously pledged his allegiance to his native New Zealand but is yet to make a definitive call on whether he wishes to represent Australia or New Zealand. He could find himself in the unique position of being named in both sides.
Morris said he was ecstatic with his first year under Des Hasler after spending time in the NSW Cup last season.
"It was a learning experience, a journey," he said. "I learned you can't take first grade for granted, you have to work hard.
''I was struggling with a bit of form and my head space just wasn't right. It was a matter of getting that right … I was doubting myself and not as confident as I needed to be. The idea was to get back and to enjoy the game."
He credited Hasler's strategy to ensure he was in many one-on-one situations with his opposing number as another reason for his stellar 2012. ''Any outside back would like to be one-one-one with their opposing number and Des has been good in allowing for the structure to be in place to get me in those positions. It's better being one-on-one than having a wall of defenders on you."