Meninga: Australia's spine one of the greats
Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga has ranked Australia's current spine as one of the best he has seen following their 34-8 Four Nations final victory over New Zealand.
Informed of his coach's opinion after the game, Kangaroos halfback and Four Nations Player of the Tournament Cooper Cronk was blown away by the praise for himself, Cameron Smith, Darius Boyd and Johnathan Thurston.
"To even say that is the truth is not for me to say. One thing that gets lost in all that – and I know we've played a lot of football – is that we seem to be still improving," Cronk said.
"We haven't stagnated. I think we have contributed and helped each other become better players through our careers.
"It's a huge honour for one of the Kangaroos greatest ever players to say that. I'm quite chuffed to be fair."
Meninga couldn't help but agree with Kiwis coach David Kidwell's statement that there were at least two future Immortals in Australia's current spine.
"In the history of our game I haven't seen too many better spines to be honest with you," Meninga said.
"Cameron, Cooper, Johnathan and Darius are great players and fellas. They perform when it matters and that's how you judge a person. Their longevity in the game is a testament to their success.
"They're building their own story and legacy in the game. Cameron has been playing rep footy for 11 years. Every time they lace on the boots – no matter the jersey – they're so competitive and want to play well. I can't fault them.
"Throw GI (centre Greg Inglis) into the mix and it's a great era for us at the moment.
"When they come together it's exciting. We are in awe of them every time they play."
One man who may look to force his way back into the Kangaroos make-up is forgotten Melbourne Storm star Billy Slater.
A major shoulder complaint has seen Slater miss the majority of the past two NRL Telstra Premiership seasons.
Cronk expects Slater to force his way back into Australia's squad for next year's World Cup.
"Not to put any pressure on Billy at all because he can forge his own path over the next 12 months, but if I were a gambling man I'd say Billy Slater will be back to his best," Cronk said.