Pacific Championships 2023: Kangaroos’ Dylan Edwards call divides fans, should play fullback, James Tedesco, Vs Samoa

Three-time Panthers premiership winning fullback Dylan Edwards will finally make his representative debut on Saturday when he lines up for Australia against Samoa.

The 2022 Clive Churchill Medallist’s exemplary form particularly during the Panthers’ premiership reign has been rewarded after he was parachuted into the team for Josh Addo-Carr, who was stood down after his breach notice from the Koori Knockout.

But while he will be rewarded for his performances with a Kangaroos jersey, some fans have hit out that the fact he’ll have the No. 2 on his back and play on the wing.

Boxing: Tszyu vs. Mendoza SUN 15th OCT 12PM AEDT | Order Now with Main Event on Kayo Sports

In an era of remarkable fullbacks, Edwards is a quietly spoken workhorse who has let his actions do the talking while the likes of Australian and NSW captain James Tedesco, reigning Dally M Medallist Kalyn Ponga and two of the biggest stars in the game in Reece Walsh and Latrell Mitchell steal much of the headline ink.

Before Addo-Carr was stood down, Tedesco was the only fullback selected for the Kangaroos in the Pacific Championships.

But now that he’s there, some fans have questioned why Edwards isn’t playing fullback.

Although it’s true Tedesco didn’t have his best season and faced speculation about his place in the NSW side during Origin as well as his place in the Kangaroos side, Australian coach Mal Meninga said it was a “no-brainer” to pick Tedesco at the back.

“Teddy has been outstanding for a long time, he’s our current Australian captain, his effort and commitment levels are enormous, and he’s been seen as the best player in the world,” Meninga said.

“He’s never let his country down, he’s never let his Roosters or NSW teammates down, and he deserves to be there.”

But fans have been left divided over the call for several different reasons, including the fact defensively that Edwards will go up again either his metre-eater Panthers teammate Brian To’o, which is the likely match up, or 2022 Australian World Cup representative winger Murray Tualagi.

Edwards has played wing in just three NRL matches in his 131 game career, the last of which was in 2019.

SEN digital producer Dominic Criniti posted: “Thoughts on Dylan Edwards playing on the wing for Australia? Personally think he should be fullback or 14 due to his lack of defensive experience on the wing against a very good Samoan backline.”

“Is Edwards really going up against To’o? Always a good move to play a fullback out of position with next to no training in defensive structures from that spot. Easy money on his opposite scoring a double,” one fan wrote.

Another added: “Edwards on the wing is a crime to Rugby League. He should be the fullback.”

Another said: “Making Edwards play on the wing and keeping Tedesco at fullback is like getting Adele to sing backing vocals for Sophie Monk.”

Another commented: “Dylan Edwards is a great player but he should either be playing at fullback or not at all. This continuing trend of using club fullbacks as centres or wingers in rep sides (eg Latrell, Tommy Trbojevic, now Dylan Edwards) is such an insult to specialist centres & wingers.”

Edwards himself admitted there he would need to adjust defensively to playing on the wing.

“We do some drills at training where you’re put into different positions, and hopefully I can put a bit of that practice I do in clubland into action on the weekend,” he said.

And for the record, Edwards’ feats from fullback are unparalleled in the past three years. Edwards has averaged 207m per game in 2023 (5390m in total), having run more than 700m more this season than his closest challenger in Panthers teammate Brian To’o (4613m).

It comes after Edwards also topped the running metres in 2022 with 5578m (223m per game) and 4059m (193m per game) in 2021, where he was fifth overall having played just 21 games.

And in the biggest game of the season, the NRL Grand Final, he ran a remarkable 306m, more than 120m more than the second most in the game in the Broncos’ Herbie Farnworth.

Edwards’ international debut will also come at a cost as he’s set to miss his brother Jarrod’s wedding.

“He [Jarrod] wouldn’t want me to miss this,” Edwards told the Sydney Morning Herald. “He wants me to represent my country. It’s something every kid dreams of, and he completely understands.

“They’ll be having a few drinks and will put the game on later in the night. It’s unfortunate timing, but I’ve made the right decision.

“There were a couple of weddings I was meant to attend, and I was packing when Ivan called. He told me I was in the Australian squad and excited for me.”

Leave a Comment