Daly Cherry-Evans is in line for his first Kangaroos call-up in four years as fellow No.7 contender James Maloney attempts to battle through a persistent neck injury to play in Australia's end-of-season Tests.
Despite missing the finals and enduring a tumultuous campaign for Manly, Cherry-Evans' impressive Origin III showing for Queensland holds him in good stead for a similar recall to the green and gold as either first-choice halfback or a bench utility.
Cherry-Evans played the last of his 11 Tests in the 2014 Four Nations, but will get first crack at securing a Kangaroos berth in the October 6 PM's XIII clash with Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby.
Australian coach Mal Meninga considers Cherry-Evans a scrumbase front-runner for next month's Tests against New Zealand and Tonga alongside Maloney, who will meet with a specialist next week having played through a persistent neck injury that required painkilling injections before each game during Penrith's finals run.
NRL.com understands Maloney could be facing a 6-8-week rehabilitation if he goes under the knife for anticipated fusion surgery.
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But he has also told Meninga that he can play through the pain for the two back-to-back clashes at Auckland's Mt Smart Stadium on October 13 and 20, where Cameron Munster is odds on to claim the Kangaroos five-eighth role after a stunning season for Melbourne.
"I would say Jimmy (Maloney) is the front-runner, depending on his fitness," Meninga told NRL.com.
"I spoke to him on Sunday and he said his body was in pretty good shape. But 'DCE' is in the picture as well I'd say, so we could take both.
"The way DCE came back into Origin was very impressive. He's got experience at this level, which is important with only a few weeks of training and preparation, and he's got that ability to play a utility role as well".
Australia will select a 19-man contingent for the two Tests after the grand final, while Meninga hopes to have his PM's XIII locked squad in early as Monday.
Dragons half and incumbent Test utility Ben Hunt will have a chance to stake his claim alongside Cherry-Evans against the Kumuls, however Newcastle livewire Kalyn Ponga's recovery from ankle surgery rules him out of capping a stunning breakout year with an Australian debut.
While Hunt himself conceded "I probably haven’t done enough at the end of the year" to retain his Kangaroos spot, Meninga said Hunt's versatility still keeps the 28-year-old in contention.
"He's played nine in Origin, if he wants to play rep footy, that's what he's got to get his head around his utility value," Meninga said.
"Off the bench, playing a number of positions, we took him to the World Cup in that role, he can play 13 as well. I like Benny as a player and a person, he's still in the picture."
NSW Origin winning halfback Nathan Cleary and South Sydney's Adam Reynolds remain in contention for Cooper Cronk's vacated No.7 jumper, but the Test experience of Maloney and Cherry-Evans is a serious advantage at the selection table.
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The absence of Cronk (retirement) and Michael Morgan (bicep) means the Kangaroos will field a new halves combination among at least six forced changes from their last-start World Cup final win over England.
Along with Cronk and Morgan and retirees Cameron Smith and Billy Slater, incumbent Test stars Matt Gillett (neck) and Wade Graham (ACL) are already confirmed absentees.
The likes of Valentine Holmes, David Klemmer, Boyd Cordner, Tyson Frizell and Josh McGuire will retain their places from Australia's last Test appearance, while Greg Inglis will also return having sat out last year with his own knee reconstruction.
Otherwise James Tedesco and Damien Cook are odds-on inclusions for their respective Test debuts, while Blues Origin winners Josh Addo-Carr and Latrell Mitchell will also make strong cases for inclusion.