Vodafone Warriors Ben Henry and Siliva Havili are among six new faces named tonight in the 18-man Kiwi squad to face the Kangaroos in the 2014 Anzac Test at Allianz Stadium in Sydney on Friday night.
They join club-mates Simon Mannering, the Kiwi captain, and halfback Shaun Johnson in a line-up which also includes former Vodafone Warrior Isaac John (Penrith) and ex-Vodafone Junior Warrior Peta Hiku plus Kenneath Bromwich (Melbourne) and Martin Taupau (Wests Tigers) as the other newcomers.
The turnover of players has been so extreme that only six players remain from the 17 the Kiwis used in the Rugby League World Cup final against Australia at Old Trafford just five months ago – Mannering, Johnson, winger Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, centre Dean Whare and props Jesse Bromwich and Sam Moa.
Vodafone Warriors Thomas Leulaui, Manu Vatuvei and Sam Rapira are part of a long injury list which also includes Frank Pritchard, Alex Glenn, Issac Luke, Kieran Foran, Elijah Taylor, Josh Hoffman, Jeremy Smith, James Gavet and Frank Pritchard.
Vodafone Warriors Kevin Locke and Ben Matulino were both overlooked after playing in the World Cup final; Locke has played only two New South Wales Cup games since returning from injury while Matulino has been side-lined serving a suspension the last two weeks.
Others who have failed to make it for a variety of reasons include Sonny Bill Williams, Bryson Goodwin, Sam Kasiano, Krisnan Inu, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Krisnan Inu and Frank-Paul Nuuausala along with the likes of Sam Perrett, Steve Matai, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Jason Taumalolo, Sika Manu and Konrad Hurrell.
With Foran, Luke and Leuluai out as well as Hoffman – who has been playing at standoff for the Broncos – the Kiwi selectors have plucked John out of New South Wales Cup football (he has appeared in one NRL match this year) to play in the halves; and Havili is lined up for hooker after just three NRL interchange appearances for the Vodafone Warriors, none of them at hooker. John represented the Cook Islands at the Rugby League World Cup while Havili was in Tonga's team at the tournament.
The Bromwich siblings become the first set of brothers in a Kiwi squad since Jason and Nathan Cayless in 2006. Five of the players named trace their junior football back to the Manurewa Marlins – the Bromwichs, Havili, Hiku and utility forward Greg Eastwood.
While the final line-up hasn’t yet been confirmed it could be: Peta Hiku (Manly); Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Sydney Roosters), Dean Whare (Penrith), Gerard Beale (St George Illawarra), Jason Nightingale (St George Illawarra); Isaac John (Penrith), Shaun Johnson (Vodafone Warriors); Jesse Bromwich (Melbourne), Siliva Havili (Vodafone Warriors), Sam Moa (Sydney Roosters); Kevin Proctor (Melbourne), Simon Mannering (Vodafone Warriors) captain; Adam Blair (Wests Tigers). Interchange: Ben Henry (Vodafone Warriors), Kenneath Bromwich (Melbourne Storm), Greg Eastwood (Canterbury Bulldogs), Tohu Harris (Melbourne), Martin Taupau (Wests Tigers).
Coach: Stephen Kearney.
Australia’s team is: Billy Slater (Melbourne); Darius Boyd (Newcastle), Greg Inglis (South Sydney), Josh Morris (Canterbury-Bankstown), Brett Morris (St George Illawarra); Johnathan Thurston (North Queeensland), Cooper Cronk (Melbourne); Matt Scott (North Queensland), Cameron Smith (Melbourne) captain, James Tamou (North Queensland); Greg Bird (Gold Coast), Sam Thaiday (Brisbane); Paul Gallen (Cronulla). Interchange: Daly Cherry-Evans (Manly), Boyd Cordner (Sydney Roosters), Nate Myles (Gold Coast), Corey Parker (Brisbane). 18th man: Matt Gillett (Brisbane).
Coach Tim Sheens.