The Newsroom previews the 2016 NRL test match between the Australian Kangaroos and New Zealand Kiwis.
The new-look Kangaroo and Kiwi sides get to test fresh looking squads when they go head-to-head at Perth’s NIB Stadium on Saturday ahead of the Four Nations tournament.
Australian coach Mal Meninga has yet to confirm his starting 17 but with retirement, form, age, injuries and availability all a factor, the game-day line-up will be very different from the team that beat New Zealand 16-0 earlier this year in the trans-Tasman test.
Both squads are missing familiar faces. For Australia, Corey Parker, Paul Gallen, Josh McGuire, Semi Radradra and James Tamou, part of the team that beat the Kiwis in May, have been omitted. Kenny Bromwich, Sam Moa and Kodi Nikorima are Kiwi absentees.
New Kiwi coach David Kidwell had to confront the loss of key players Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Kieran Foran. Kidwell named Thomas Leuluai at five-eighth to replace Nikorima and Isaac Luke at hooker in place of Lewis Brown. Brown joins an extended bench alongside debutant Joseph Tapine, who awaits his maiden appearance for New Zealand. Solomone Kata and Jordan Rapana will both make their New Zealand debuts, though they have played international games for Tonga and the Cook Islands respectively.
The Australian team nearly picks itself. Jonathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith, Greg Inglis and Darius Boyd are immediately penciled in. Rookies James Maloney, Matt Moylan, Jake Friend, Valentine Holmes, Tyson Frizell, Shannon Boyd, Jake Trbojevic and Justin O’Neill are all in line to make their test debuts this weekend or during the Four Nations. Trbojevic was a late call-up to the squad after Josh Papalii was ruled out with an ankle injury. Neither Aaron Woods nor Josh Mansour is available for Saturday’s test.
Players to watch are the 2016 Dally M medal winners New Zealand lock Jason Taumalolo and Australian halfback Cooper Cronk. As the best players in the 2016 NRL season both were vital to the success of their respective teams. Taumalolo is one of the best ball runners in the game and Cronk organises the team and can control the game like no other first-grade halfback. – Paul Burns
Photo of Kangaroos squad from Australian Kangaroos Facebook page.