Wing battle bringing out best in trio
Selection headaches for Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga exist everywhere right now, but it is the fight for a spot on the flanks in particular which is driving positive results from the players involved.
Established representative stars Josh Mansour and Blake Ferguson, along with international rookie Valentine Holmes, are locked in a three-way battle for two wing spots as crunch games against New Zealand and England approach at the 2016 Four Nations.
After making a try-scoring debut against the Kiwis in Perth on October 15, Sharks flyer Holmes emerged as a favourite to secure one spot, but was one of six frontline players rested from Australia's 54-12 victory over Scotland last weekend.
In his place Mansour took full advantage, running for a game-high 256 metres, making two line breaks and scoring a double against the Bravehearts in Hull.
Fullback Matt Moylan said the internal battle was spurring the trio on to reach new heights at training and on game day.
"I would say it has probably been bringing out the best in them," Moylan said.
"I think every one of them has sort of put their best foot forward [so far].
"'Val' (Holmes) played outstanding in the game in Perth and the other two boys haven't done themselves any injustice with the way they have played."
Roosters utility back Ferguson is the only one of the group to play both games of the end-of-year campaign so far, running for over 100 metres in both and scoring the opening try against Scotland.
Halfback Cooper Cronk told NRL.com that the competition for spots stretched across the board for Australia right now and believed Meninga was using it to full advantage.
"I don't think it is isolated to those three gentleman (Holmes, Mansour and Ferguson), you have got a few other players who made their debut against Scotland who are putting pressure on others to play," Cronk said.
"I think one thing that this Australian side has is genuine depth, and I think you could pick any member in this squad to perform against New Zealand and England and they would do the job.
"Mal is a smart coach, there is no doubt about that, he has put in a plan for the first two games to try and see how everyone is, where their standard of play is, and then he will pick the team accordingly."
Australia face the Kiwis this Sunday (AEDT), as the second match of the double-header at Ricoh Arena in Coventry.
This article first appeared on NRL.COM