Friend poised for next step

AUSTRALIAN selector Des Morris has dropped the biggest hint yet that Jake Friend has overtaken Robbie Farah as the country's second-best hooker and is in line for an international debut at the Four Nations.

Morris, who played a part in Friend's selection as 18th man for Queensland during this year's State of Origin series, said the ex-Noosa Pirate had featured prominently in recent selection discussions.

"We have certainly been talking about him at selection meetings and I know he is highly thought of by not only the Queensland selectors, but the New South Wales selectors as well," he said.

"I have no doubt he would handle it and he has been really good for the last couple of years and he is not far away now. I would think the opportunity will arise for him sooner rather than later.

"He just has to maintain his form."

The 24-year-old workhorse has assisted his case in helping the Roosters to back-to-back minor premierships.

In contrast, Farah's year was marred by a late-season slump.

In the final six games, Wests Tigers conceded 198 points while managing to post only 38.

Farah's former Tigers mentor and current Australian coach Tim Sheens has been known to rate the

30-year-old very highly - and the No.9 is coming off a successful Origin campaign - but Queensland assistant coach and former Maroons hooker Jason Hetherington is backing Friend to shine on the international stage.

"The main thing is that he is still playing finals football and keeping fit while showing the selectors what he can do, which helps a lot," Hetherington said.

"He is a wonderful talent and the guys in front of him are getting a bit older.

"I went through the same thing with Steve Walters, who was ahead of me like Cameron Smith is ahead of him now, but my chance came and so will his."



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