Wed, May 14, 2008 - Page 20 News List

Kangaroos prop Brent Kite misses selection for Blues

AP , SYDNEY

Manly prop Brent Kite missed selection for New South Wales for the series-opening State-of-Origin match against Queensland only four days after playing in Australia's win over New Zealand in a rugby league test.

Blues selectors preferred Brett White and Ben Cross to Kite for the May 21 interstate clash in Sydney, considered the highlight of the Australian rugby league calendar.

"Brent played for Australia three or four days ago, he was in our discussions for a long time but this is a team we think will do the best job in the way we want to play the game," coach Craig Bellamy said.

Brisbane Broncos halfback Peter Wallace won the most contentious spot, the 22-year-old playmaker earning his Origin debut in a halves pairing with Australia five-eighth Greg Bird.

Wallace, 22, got the nod ahead of seasoned veterans Brett Finch, Matt Orford and Jarrod Mullen after utility Kurt Gidley was ruled out with a fractured cheek bone.

Bird, who plays lock at club level but has filled in as pivot for Australia in its last two test matches, was given the No. 6 jersey ahead of Braith Anasta.

Gold Coast forward Anthony Laffranchi earned a deserved Origin debut in an interchange bench that also includes veteran backrower Craig Fitzgibbon, who missed the last two Origin series, Anthony Tupou and Ben Hornby.

New South Wales selectors made nine changes to the lineup that won the last game of last year's 2-1 series loss to Queensland.

Queensland selectors overlooked Gold Coast Titans halfback Scott Prince, arguably the most in-form player in the National Rugby League, and picked Karmichael Hunt at five-eighth to fill in for injured skipper Darren Lockyer.

A late push for Prince to partner Australia halfback Johnathan Thurston in a new look halves pairing was ignored, with Thurston holding the No. 7 jersey and Hunt switching from fullback to make room for Billy Slater at the back.

Queensland chairman of selectors Des Morris said it was a tough decision, but selectors felt that Prince was a halfback and Hunt's versatility made him a better option as a makeshift five-eighth.

"It's a big job to fill obviously with a player of Darren's caliber not available, we feel [Hunt] has played a fair bit of that position during the game and he's very strong in defense," Morris said. "We think he'll be a good mix with Johnathan."

Morris said he felt for Prince but pointed out the Titans's play maker was a genuine halfback and Hunt's versatility made him a better option for the five-eighth position.

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