ANZAC TEST | Who's in the frame?
Halves and hooker options are sparse as the Kiwi selectors contemplate naming their team to take on the Kangaroos in this year's Anzac Test at Allianz Stadium in Sydney on Friday week (May 2).
The Kiwi squad is due to be revealed on Sunday night after the last two matches in the NRL's eighth round.
Of the four players selected to cover the halves and hooker at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup three are out seemingly out of contention. Kieran Foran (knee) and Issac Luke (shoulder) are sidelined long-term while Vodafone Warrior Thomas Leuluai is again battling the groin injury he picked up at the tournament.
Only Vodafone Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson is fit with a paucity of options to replace the experienced Foran, Luke and Leuluai. Some might even facetiously suggest Benji Marshall's first game back in rugby league should be for the Kiwis next week.
Brisbane's Josh Hoffman seems to be the only possible choice to wear the No 6 jersey (unless the Kiwi selectors have a smokie in their back pocket). While fullback is his specialist position he has been used at standoff for the Broncos this year.
Outside Tongan international and Vodafone Warriors NRL rookie Silliva Havili - who has made just two brief first-grade appearances from the bench in the last two weeks, and not at hooker - the selectors are apparently devoid of specialist No 9 choices. The most logical move would be to use Penrith's Elijah Taylor, who hasa been used as a stop-gap by the Kiwis before.
Former Kiwi Ben Roberts, now at Melbourne, might have been a slim possibility at hooker or in the halves but he was injured playing against Canberra last weekend. Former Junior Kiwi hooker Matt McIlwrick (Canberra) has played 13 NRL matches but has featured just once at that level this year; the rest of his time has been spent with the Mounties in the New South Wales Cup.
Of last year's World Cup squad Foran, Luke, Frank Pritchard and Sonny Bill Williams are out of contention while Leuluai is also injured and centre Krisnan Inu has been playing in the New South Wales Cup for Canterbury-Bankstown.
Other contenders injured apart from Roberts include Penrith's Sam McKendry and Lewis Brown, North Queensland's Antonio Winterstein, Vodafone Warriors Jerome Ropati and Glen Fisiiahi plus James Gavet and Dene Halatau (Wests Tigers).
The list of New Zealand players in NRL circulation this season includes:
Fullbacks: Sam Perrett (Canterbury-Bankstown), Josh Hoffman (Brisbane), Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Sydney Roosters), Kevin Locke (Vodafone Warriors), Kurtis Rowe (Wests Tigers)
Wingers: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Sydney Roosters), Manu Vatuvei (Vodafone Warriors), Jason Nightingale (St George Illawarra), Sam Perrett (Canterbury-Bankstown), Bryson Goodwin (South Sydney), Matthew Wright (North Queensland), Curtis Rona (North Queensland), Ngani Laumape (Vodafone Warriors), Sosaia Feki (Cronulla), Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Penrith), Bill Tupou (Canberra).
Centres: Dean Whare (Penrith), Gerard Beale (St George Illawarra), Konrad Hurrelll (Vodafone Warriors), Shaun Kenny-Dowall (Sydney Roosters), Steve Matai (Manly), Kirisome Auva’a (South Sydney), Bryson Goodwin (South Sydney), Peta Hiku (Manly), Tim Simona (Wests Tigers).
Standoff: Josh Hoffman (Brisbane), Isaac John (Penrith), Corey Norman (Parramatta)
Halfback: Shaun Johnson (Vodafone Warriors).
Hookers: Elijah Taylor (Penrith), Siliva Havili (Vodafone Warriors), Matt McIlwrick (Canberra).
Props: Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney Roosters), Sam Moa (Sydney Roosters), Jesse Bromwich (Melbourne), Ben Matulino (Vodafone Warriors), Sam Rapira (Vodafone Warriors), Suaia Matagi (Vodafone Warriors), Greg Eastwood (Canterbury-Bankstown), Martin Taupau (Wests Tigers), Sam Kasiano (Canterbury-Bankstown), Zane Tetavano (Newcastle), Sam Tagataese (Cronulla), Fuifui Moimoi (Parramatta), Ava Seumanufagai (Wests Tigers), Mark Ioane (Gold Coast), Peni Terepo (Parramatta), Dylan Napa (Sydney Roosters).
Second rowers: Simon Mannering (Vodafone Warriors), Elijah Taylor (Penrith), Alex Glenn (Brisbane), Manu Ma’u (Parramatta), Justin Horo (Manly), Jason Taumalolo (North Queensland), Leeson Ah Mau (St George Illawarra), Sika Manu (Penrith), Bronson Harrison (St George Illawarra), Ben Henry (Vodafone Warriors), Sione Lousi (Vodafone Warriors), Tinirau Arona (Cronulla), Kevin Proctor (Melbourne), Tohu Harris (Melbourne), Kenny Bromwich (Melbourne), Joseph Paulo (Parramatta), Bodene Thompson (Wests Tigers), Sitaleki Akauola (Wests Tigers), Sebastine Ikahihifo (Vodafone Warriors), Isaac Liu (Sydney Roosters).
Loose forwards: Adam Blair (Wests Tigers), Greg Eastwood (Canterbury-Bankstown), Jeremy Smith (Newcastle), Frank-Paul Nuuausala (Sydney Roosters).