Andrew McCullough of the Broncos.
Andrew McCullough of the Broncos. TRACEY NEARMY

Broncos hooker in line for rep honours

ANDREW McCullough has his nose in front in the three-horse race to be Cameron Smith's successor as Australia's Test hooker, with Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga confirming the Broncos rake is on course for a World Cup debut.

McCullough's improved form and continued development this season has not gone unnoticed by Meninga, who is already casting an eye towards the end-of-season tournament, which culminates in the World Cup final at Suncorp Stadium on December 2.

Like every other Queensland hooker, McCullough's path to a Maroons or Kangaroos jumper has been blocked by the enormous presence of Immortal-in-waiting Smith.

Roosters skipper Jake Friend has been the heir apparent to Smith's representative crowns for a number of years, and toured with the Kangaroos as deputy No.9 for last year's Four Nations.

But Meninga said McCullough's career-best form, which recently helped him land a new four-year deal with the Broncos, had put the Dalby product squarely on the radar of selectors.

"He's playing his best footy this year, there's no doubt about that," Meninga said.

"Andrew has been mentioned around our selection table and he deserves that.

"In our talks with the Australian team, obviously Cameron Smith is No.1 but Andrew and Jake Friend and Peter Wallace are certainly running close second.

"Touch wood that nothing happens to Cameron Smith but obviously we do have to look at a successor.

"If Andrew keeps on playing the way he is playing at the moment, he's right in the picture for a World Cup position."

McCullough has been one of the Broncos' most consistent players this season and one of their most reliable for years.

He is also averaging the most tackles per game across the competition so far this season.

Meninga said that while those defensive efforts were impressive, the Australian selectors would also be watching what the Brisbane No.9 can do with the ball in the coming months.

McCullough is aware of this himself, saying this week that his running game is something he wants to improve on.

The 27-year-old said in he knows he is in the best form of his career so far, but he also believes he has room for improvement.

With the World Cup at the end of the year, McCullough said he had not given up on his goals of one day wearing the Kangaroos jumper and will do everything he can to continue impressing Meninga.

"Anyone in the comp that tells you they don't have goals or ambitions to do something like that, they're probably lying," McCullough said of playing representative football.

"It's always a goal and a drive.

"I just have to make sure I have a good training ethic every week and those things may or may not come, who knows. But I will give myself every opportunity."

News Corp Australia


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