Preview: Australia Vs New Zealand
With the 2016 Club season coming to an end, Australia and New Zealand will go head to head in the first ever rugby league international at nib Stadium in Perth on Saturday night.
The fixture will serve as the sole hit-out between the two international powerhouses until they head to the UK to take part in the Four Nations tournament alongside England and Scotland.
Kangaroos Head Coach, Mal Meninga has brought seven new faces into his squad with Shannon Boyd, Jake Friend, Tyson Frizell, Valentine Holmes, James Maloney, Matt Moylan and Justin O’Neill in contention to make their international debuts.
The introduction of new blood and the absence of stalwarts such as Paul Gallen and Corey Parker has signalled a rebuilding stage for the Australian side – something that has been echoed by Meninga.
“This is a new era for the Kangaroos and the squad which has been selected reflects that,” said the former Queensland mentor.
“This squad has been selected for the present, but with an eye to the future.”
Similarly to their Trans-Tasman rivals, New Zealand have named five uncapped players in their squad with David Fusituá, Solomone Kata, Te Maire Martin, Jordan Rapana and Joseph Tapine looking to find their way into David Kidwell’s line-up.
Kidwell's will throw two of his debutants into the starting line-up for New Zealand, Solomone Kata and Jordan Rapana.
Issac Luke, the most-capped player for New Zealand, is set to return to the Kiwis side to provide experience and spark to the visitors attack in his 37th test.
The Kiwis boast a huge pack with Kevin Proctor and Jason Taumalolo featuring alongside Waerea-Hargreaves and Jess Bromwich.
Adding experience in the spine is Thomas Leuluai, who first played for the Kiwis back in 2003. He will pair up with his NZ Warriors team-mate Shaun Johnson in the halves.
After breaking a three match losing streak in their last encounter against the Kiwis, Australia will be looking to improve upon their scrappy performance in the ANZAC Test which saw the world champions claim a 16-0 victory.
With nib Stadium hosting two golden-point thrillers in 2016, both sides will be looking to ensure that Perth’s first taste of representative football is a memorable one.
South Sydney Rabbitohs skipper, Greg Inglis is set to take the field for his 35th appearance in the Green and Gold, joining the squad after the birth of his daughter, Quinn Sybella.
Inglis has been a mainstay in the Australian line-up since making his debut in 2006, predominantly featuring in the centres and scoring 28 tries.
Spotlight: The Halves
As has been the case in recent fixtures between the two sides, the halves will play a crucial role in the outcome of the match on Saturday night.
Australia takes the field with arguably two of the greatest halves in rugby league history in the form of Jonathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk.
The combination between the two playmakers – which has been developed during their time playing for Queensland and Australia – has proved to be a game breaker on a number of occasions.
Additionally, both players have guided their sides to Premierships, further highlighting their brilliance and ability to lead a team as a dominant half.
On the other side of the equation New Zealand halfback, Shaun Johnson will be looking to showcase the form that has stung the Kangaroos in the past and earnt him the reputation as one of the most exciting players in the game.
Johnson will link up with Warriors teammate, Thomas Leuluai who has a wealth of experience, featuring in over 300 first-grade matches as well as 34 appearances in the Black and White.