Four players have forced their way back into NZ Kiwis contention for this week’s Anzac Test in Brisbane, after missing last year’s Four Nations triumph.
Coach Stephen Kearney has named his 18 players to prepare for the traditional one-off encounter at Suncorp Stadium, with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Dallin Watene-Zelzniak, Ben Matulino and Sam Moa returning to the fold.
Tuivasa-Sheck was unavailable for the end-of-season internationals, but has hit top form in his new role as Sydney Roosters fullback.
Teenage sensation Watene-Zelezniak was actually named to make his Kiwis debut on the wing in the Four Nations opener, but broke a bone in his foot during the team’s build-up for that game and could play no further part in the tournament.
A variety of injuries kept Matulino out of the Kiwis programme last year, while Moa withdrew from Four Nations consideration due to family illness.
“All of these players have been in good form so far this season and really put their hands up for inclusion in this Anzac Test side,” says Kearney. “It’s a sign that we are developing some great young talent and good depth in certain positions.”
But the group has also suffered a couple of setbacks over the weekend, with news that Four Nations mainstays Dean Whare and Jason Taumalolo would not be available through injury.
Whare has nursed a hamstring strain for several weeks and could not take the field for Penrith Panthers tonight, while Taumalolo left the field early in North Queensland’s win over Newcastle yesterday with a knee injury.
“It’s disappointing to lose those lads, but that’s the nature of the game sometimes,” says Kearney. “We wish them both a speedy recovery and we have total confidence in the players that take the field on Friday night,” says Kearney.
“We believe this team is capable of a job for us this week and it’s also an opportunity to take another step towards our ultimate goal – the 2017 World Cup.”
The full NZ Kiwis squad for Friday’s Anzac Test is Jesse Bromwich (Melbourne Storm), Lewis Brown (Penrith Panthers), Greg Eastwood (Canterbury Bulldogs), Kieran Foran (Manly Sea Eagles), Tohu Harris (Melbourne Storm), Peta Hiku (Manly Sea Eagles), Shaun Johnson (NZ Warriors), Shaun Kenny-Dowall (Sydney Roosters), Thomas Leuluai (NZ Warriors), Issac Luke (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Simon Mannering (NZ Warriors), Ben Matulino (ZN Warriors), Sam Moa (Sydney Roosters), Kevin Proctor (Melbourne Storm), Matin Taupau (Wests Tigers), Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Sydney Roosters), Manu Vatuvei (NZ Warriors) and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Penrith Panthers).
Mid Central utility Kristina Sue returns to the Kiwi Ferns squad after seven years in the wilderness, as new coach Alan Jackson announces his first team to take on the Australia Jillaroos in the Anzac Test curtainraiser.Built predominantly on the squad that headed the Aussies 2-1 in their NRL Auckland Nines series, the side will be captained by veteran double international Laura Mariu.
The full NZ Kiwi Ferns squad for the Anzac Test curtainraiser is Tasha Davie, Shontelle Dudley, Maitua Feterika, Teuila Fotu-Moala, Georgia Hale, Annabelle Hohepa, Nora Maaka, Kelly Maipi, Laura Mariu, Krystal Murray, Hilda Peters, Kahurangi Peters, Rona Peters, Krystal Rota, Kristina Sue, Atawhai Tupaea, Janna Vaughan and Sharnita Woodman.
Meanwhile, after their dramatic 15-14 win over Australia last year, Junior Kiwis coach Kelvin Wright has the luxury of naming eight returning players for next Saturday’s encounter at Gold Coast’s Cbus Stadium, part of an international tripleheader.
“At under-20s, you don’t get much continuity, because they’re getting older and moving on so often,” says Wright. “So it’s great that we have managed to bring so many back that have performed at this level before.
“But we’re expecting another extremely tough game … it’s always that.”
The full NZ Junior Kiwis squad for their showdown with the Junior Kangaroos is Bunty Afoa (NZ Warriors), Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Melbourne Storm), Zach Dockar-Clay (Parramatta Eels), James Fisher-Harris (Penrith Panthers), Watson Heleta (Wests Tigers), Jamayne Isaako (Cronulla Sharks), Sione Katoa (Penrith Panthers), Daniel Levi (Newcastle Knights), Lamar Liolevave (Wests Tigers), Joseph Manu (Sydney Roosters), Te Maire Martin (Wests Tigers), Taane Milne (Sydney Roosters), Marata Niukore (NZ Warriors), Toafofoa Sipley (N Warriors), Jazz Tevaga (NZ Warriors), Renouf To’omaga (Canterbury Bulldogs), Tony Tumusa (Melbourne Storm) and Braden Uele (North Queensland Cowboys).