Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga says it was important to get star centre Valentin Holmes around his squad for the Pacific Championships despite the fact he’ll miss Australia’s opening match against Samoa due to a one-match suspension.
Meninga picked Holmes, who has been banned for a post-season incident involving a photo and bag of white power, and winger Josh Addo-Carr, who is subject of an NRL investigation after a brawl last weekend.
On Tuesday, Holmes apologised after the NRL confirmed his ban and a $25,000 fine, with the representative star labelling his actions “immature and irresponsible”.
“I am deeply sorry for the damaging affect my decisions have had on the club and my family,” he said.
“My actions, while not illegal, were immature and irresponsible.
“I am determined to restore the confidence and trust of the club as well as our stakeholders, members and fans.”
Holmes was issued fines totalling $100,000, including a club fine, $50,000 of which is suspended, with the $50,000 payable now inclusive of the $25,000 fine issued by the NRL.
Meninga defended picking Holmes despite the 28-year-old missing the October 14 clash with Samoa in Townsville.
“Just to have him part of the squad, training with the squad, getting back to that rugby league environment will be good for him,” Meninga said.
Addo-Carr was involved in a brawl at the Koori Knockout tournament last weekend during which police became involved. The Bulldogs star wasn’t charged but the incident has been referred to the NSW Rugby League and event organisers and the NRL is conducting inquiries.
Unsurprisingly, Clive Churchill medallist Nathan Cleary has been picked along with his premiership teammates Isaah Yeo and Liam Martin among eight players from Sunday’s NRL grand final.
But there was no room for three-time premiership-winning Penrith fullback Dylan Edwards after a “unanimous” vote from selectors to retain James Tedesco as captain and first-choice custodian.
Tedesco’s selection also meant there was no room for electric Broncos fullback Reece Walsh and Dally M Medallist Kalyn Ponga.
Broncos stars Kotoni Staggs, Selwyn Cobbo and Tom Flegler are in line to make their Kangaroos debuts after being picked in the 20-player squad along with Brisbane teammates Payne Haas and Pat Carrigan.
Other players in the squad include Roosters prop Lindsay Collins and South Sydney’s Cameron Murray.
Dolphins speedster Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow was selected in the back line given his performances during State of Origin and his ability to play in multiple positions.
Latrell Mitchell was made unavailable for selection by South Sydney due to a finger injury despite Meninga being “surprised” he played in the Koori Knockout last weekend.
“South Sydney said he was unavailable, so we’ve gone with that,” Meninga said.
“Knowing Latrell, he loves the Koori Knockout, he always gets involved and always wants to be a part of it all. He’s a proud First Nations person … he’s got through that tournament, went well, so looking forward to him having a good off-season and good season next year.”
The Kangaroos play their first game against Samoa in Townsville, followed by New Zealand in Melbourne on October 28. The final will be played in Hamilton on November 4.
Josh Addo-Carr, Pat Carrigan, Daly Cherry-Evans, Nathan Cleary, Selwyn Cobbo, Lindsay Collins, Reuben Cotter, Tino Fa‘asuamaleaui, Tom Flegler, Harry Grant, Payne Haas, Valentine Holmes, Ben Hunt, Liam Martin, Cameron Munster, Cameron Murray, Kotoni Staggs, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, James Tedesco, Jake Trbojevic, Isaah Yeo.