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Keary puts pressure on Munster as several players surge into Kangaroos frame

Luke Keary is closely pressing to be the best five-eighth in the game. He’s putting a lot of pressure on Cameron Munster for a spot in the Test side.

So Luke is one of a host of players I'm keeping my eye on during this NRL finals series with representative football around the corner.

There is the Prime Minister's XIII, the World Nines, the Under-23 Kangaroos – which now incorporates the Junior Kangaroos – who will be playing France, and then the Australian team for the Tests against New Zealand and Tonga.

Luke is right in the picture as far as I’m concerned. Cameron Munster is not a lay down misere for the No.6 jersey for Australia this year and what a great dilemma to have.

The way Luke is playing and what he did last year – the premiership and then two Tests alongside Daly Cherry-Evans in the halves – he deserves to be at the same table as Cameron when we’re talking about who is going to be the Australian five-eighth this year.

You look at the six clubs who have had made the second week of the finals and they all have had outstanding years.

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Staying with the Roosters, after Luke there is Latrell Mitchell and Boyd Cordner. How good have they both been for their club in 2019? And James Tedesco – one word sums him up: outstanding.

Jake Friend is due back next weekend in the preliminary finals, so let’s see what he does in terms of putting pressure on Test No.9 Damien Cook. Then for the Under-23s you’ve got people like Victor Radley and Angus Crichton.

Crichton turned 23 this year so he’s eligible – Latrell is only 22 and Victor is 21.

Angus was overlooked for Origin II and III but that's been a big learning curve for him. He's come back from that and then after a slow-ish start to 2019 he's now showing he can play right and left side well. That makes him a valuable player.

With Canberra, I can't go past Josh Papalii, Jack Wighton and Nick Cotric.

Papalii hasn't been in the Australian side since 2016, which shows how form has dictated things over the past three years. He played four Tests for Samoa at the 2017 World Cup, but he's had an outstanding year for the Raiders and for the Queensland Origin team.

Josh has come of age really this year. Through his experiences in the rep arena, his maturity has risen and he's become the leader of the Canberra pack. He has pushed out the same good minutes at prop that he used to playing lock.

If you're getting those long minutes in the NRL then coming into rep football, where obviously the talent is a lot better, you can maintain that quality in representative games.

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As far as Jack goes, he played as a utility in his first Origin game for NSW coach Brad Fittler. Then he was put into the centres. He can obviously play five-eighth really well and he played the previous four seasons at fullback for Canberra.

He's a real footballer – he can play anywhere and is a great defender. There's no coincidence that with Jack being in the line on the left side of the Raiders, they have improved this year on that edge.

With Nick Cotric, he's played right centre and left wing and he's still only 20 – turns 21 later this year. People think he's been around for a long time but that's because he came into first grade at 18 years.

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He's been around just three years but got his opportunity with NSW as well this series and didn't let anyone down. He picked up an ankle injury in game one so that prevented him completing his Origin commitments, but he makes quality contributions and can play either side of the field, which is excellent.

At Manly and for the Under-23 Kangaroos I'm looking at right-side winger Reuben Garrick, who only turned 22 in June. He's had a terrific year at the Sea Eagles – their top try scorer – after coming out of the Dragons system and into the NRL for his rookie season. Coach Des Hasler has got the best out of him. Reuben also took over the goal-kicking from DCE so he's definitely in the picture.

At Parramatta, Blake Ferguson is right back in Test considerations after a return to Origin this year and another great winger performance, after winning a premiership with the Roosters last year. He's added real punch to the Eels this season.

Looking at the halves, I've been impressed with Mitch Moses. He's starting to find his feet in really controlling games, so let's see how far he goes in the NRL finals. He can put some real pressure on DCE.

Mitch has always been a talented player but his maturity has grown, he seems happier in his own skin, and can sure generate some points for his side – he leads the NRL in try assists with 25. So he’s starting to push his name more to the front now.

I've also been enjoying the performances of Eels hooker Reed Mahoney, and he's only 21. I've added Cronulla No.9 Jayden Brailey to the Kangaroos train-on side – he turned 23 this year – so he's also pushing for an Under-23 Kangaroos spot. 

The football doesn't end with the Grand Final on October 6. It is just the beginning for many players.

Acknowledgement of Country

Canberra Raiders respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.