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Hunt selection attacked

Published: 6:30AM Tuesday May 02, 2006 Source: AAP

The selection of New Zealand-born fullback Karmichael Hunt for Australia has caused outrage on several fronts following the controversial omission of North Queensland's Matt Bowen for the Anzac test in Brisbane on Friday.

Hunt will make his test debut for Australia at the Brisbane fullback's home ground, Suncorp Stadium, after Sydney Roosters No.1 Anthony Minichiello was ruled out with a lower back injury.

The Kiwis were publicly saying "good luck" to New Zealand-born Hunt at their Gold Coast camp today but many are planning to give the teenager a hostile reception in what is expected to be a fast and physical Test match.

"I'm expecting quite a bit, even the dirty stuff," Hunt told reporters in Sydney.

Cowboys executive Peter Parr was shocked at Bowen's omission from the squad after the diminutive fullback toured with the Kangaroos for last year's Tri Nations tournament, won by the Kiwis.

"I'd hate to think that Saturday cost him a jersey," said Parr, referring to Bowen's poor game in the Cowboys' loss to the Roosters.

"If (the Australian team) had been picked a fortnight ago after the Newcastle game I doubt whether he would have missed out."

It's a clear sign Australian coach Ricky Stuart wants size in his squad to combat the likes of giant Kiwi backs Tame Tupou and Jake Webster.

Meanwhile, New Zealand halfback Thomas Leuluai criticised Hunt for failing to declare his allegiance to the Kiwis or Australia until the Kangaroos selectors forced his hand.

"He changes his mind a bit too much for my liking," said Harlequins No.7 Leuluai, who has the enormous job of replacing the retired Stacey Jones.

"He's either a Kiwi or he's not.

"Like everyone here (at camp on the Gold Coast), we're all Kiwis and we all want to play.

"I think Bluey (Kiwi coach Brian McClennan) stresses that point a lot, about us playing for each other.

"If you've got someone thinking about playing in the green and gold jersey, then he's not meant to be here."

The Kiwis hoped Hunt would choose the black and white jersey following Jones' retirement, which exposed a lack of depth in the halves.

Hunt always expressed his desire to play State of Origin for Queensland, making him ineligible to represent New Zealand, but he admitted the Australian selectors made it easier for him.

"That's right, they took the decision away from me and made the decision for me," said the 19-year-old.

"Obviously there'd been a bit of speculation a few months back that I was going to change my mind and play for New Zealand but I stuck to my original decision and it's paid off."

Kiwi star Benji Marshall was disappointed after a personal campaign to persuade Auckland-born Hunt to pledge his allegiance to the Kiwis.

"I was a little bit surprised and disappointed at the same time," said Marshall, who makes his return from a dislocated shoulder on Friday.

"I've said it before, everyone makes up their own mind and he has to live with the decision."

Asked if Hunt might be targeted by the Kiwis early in the match, McClennan quipped: "Not in the early moments, the whole game."

"It's interesting, it's kind of funny really.

"He's been here four to five years and he feels he's an Australian, well good luck to him.

"The irony of it all is that it wasn't long ago that it was whether he would play for New Zealand and now he plays for Australia."

Cairns-born Brent Webb, who faced the same dilemma before choosing to debut for the Kiwis in 2004, could see the irony in the situation.

"It's a bizarre thing, probably a first," said Webb. "I don't think it's ever happened and I don't know if it'll happen again."

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