Halfback Shaun Johnson is the sole Vodafone Warriors player named tonight in the Kiwi side for next Friday night’s Anzac Test against the Kangaroos at Hunter Stadium in Newcastle.
At the same time five Vodafone Junior Warriors have been named to represent the Junior Kiwis in their one-off international against the Junior Kangaroos at Pirtek Stadium in Parramatta next Saturday night.
Playmaker Ata Hingano, hooker Nathaniel Roache, back rowers Ofahiki Ogden and Marata Niukore and prop Isaiah Papalii have all been included in the side coached by Vodafone Junior Warriors coach Kelvin Wright.
A number of Vodafone Warriors who have been regular Kiwi internationals will miss the Anzac Test including first-choice captain Simon Mannering, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Manu Vatuvei, Thomas Leuluai, Issac Luke and Ben Matulino.
Penrith wing Dallin Watene-Zelezniak will hope he finally makes his Kiwi Test debut on what will be his third chance.
The great grandson of the legendary Steve Watene has been named twice before only to be denied his starting spot by injury (2014 Four Nations) and suspension (2015 Anzac Test).
He also missed the 2015 England tour with a collapsed lung, but has earned another chance in an 18-man squad named by coach Stephen Kearney for next Friday’s Test against Australia in Newcastle.
“When I texted Dallin to tell him, he was really, really excited,” says Kearney.
“We’ll keep him away from the beach. In 2014, we took him down to the beach for a recovery, and he ended up rolling his ankle and breaking a bone in his foot.
“He a kid that’s been in our Junior Kiwis programme and I remember watching him score four tries against the Junior Kangaroos a few years ago. He’s one of those kids that has always been on the cusp of making it. Now he finally gets that opportunity and I’m sure he’ll do a wonderful job for us.”
Watene-Zelezniak (20) and bruising Parramatta forward Manu Ma’u are the newcomers on a roster aiming to defend its world #1 ranking, retain the Bill Kelly Cup and achieve a fourth consecutive win against world champion Australia.
“Two years ago, we had a few players ruled out through injury and Manu was right in the mix then, but injured his hand,” says Kearney.
“I just think he’s shown consistency in his football since being at Parramatta and it’s an opportunity for us to grow that depth of talent that we have.
“The way he’s been playing is certainly what we’re after.”
With regular captain Simon Mannering side-lined by injury, Melbourne prop Jesse Bromwich (Kiwi #775), a 17-test veteran since 2012, will lead the side for the first time.
“You just need to look at Jesse's performances over the past two years, when he’s elevated himself to one of the premier front rowers in our game and at international level,” says Kearney.
“But it’s more than his performances – it’s everything that he brings to the table. He’s a wonderful leader in his own right.
“He ticks all the right boxes. We certainly saw that in England, where Adam Blair and Issac Luke were our captains, but Jesse was part of the leadership group and really stepped up to the plate.
“It was just a matter of time that he assumed the role we’ve given him this week.”
North Queensland powerhouse Jason Taumalolo returns to the national side after missing the entire 2015 campaign while Johnson and Bulldogs forward Greg Eastwood are back, after missing the England series.
2016 KIWIS | ANZAC TEST
Adam Blair (Brisbane Broncos)
Jesse Bromwich (Melbourne Storm) captain
Lewis Brown (Manly Sea Eagles)
Greg Eastwood (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)
Alex Glenn (Brisbane Broncos)
Tohu Harris (Melbourne Storm)
Peta Hiku (Penrith Panthers)
Shaun Johnson (Vodafone Warriors)
Jordan Kahu (Brisbane Broncos)
Shaun Kenny-Dowall (Sydney Roosters)
Manu Ma’u (Parramatta Eels)
Sam Moa (Sydney Roosters)
Jason Nightingale (St George Illawarra Dragons
Kodi Nikorima (Brisbane Broncos)
Kevin Proctor (Melbourne Storm)
Jason Taumalolo (North Queensland Cowboys)
Martin Taupau (Manly Sea Eagles)
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Penrith Panthers)
19th man | Danny Levi (Newcastle Knights)
The playing line-up will be confirmed on Tuesday.
2016 JUNIOR KIWIS | v JUNIOR KANGAROOS
Brad Abbey (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)
Kurt Bernard (Gold Coast Titans)
Cowan Epere (Penrith Panthers)
Poasa Faamausili (Sydney Roosters)
James Fisher-Harris (Penrith Panthers)
Patrick Herbert (St George Illawarra Dragons)
Ata HIngano (Vodafone Warriors)
Jamayne Isaako (Brisbane Broncos)
Greg Lelesiuao (Gold Coast Titans)
Esan Marsters (Wests Tigers)
Marata Niukore (Vodafone Warriors)
Ofahiki Ogden (Vodafone Warriors)
Isaiah Papalii (Vodafone Warriors)
Nathaniel Roache (Vodafone Warriors)
Brandon Smith (North Queensland Cowboys)
Reimis Smith (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)
Siosifa Talakai (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
Ken Tofilau (Newcastle Knights)