Aussies Shocked at Star Kiwi Omissions
Australian eyebrows are being raised quizzically at the Kiwi league team announced to face the Kangaroos in the annual Anzac Day test match this Friday. With an injury list as long as a video referee’s call, coach Stephen Kearney is not exactly blessed with quality playing stocks – which is why the omission of nine credentialed Kiwi players is perplexing the Aussies.
Injury and other factors had already ruled out hooker Isaac Luke, five-eighth and captain Keiran Foran, utility Thomas Leuluai, backrowers Elijah Taylor, Frank Pritchard and Jeremy Smith, props Sam McKendry and Jason Taumalolo and fullbacks Josh Hoffman and Kevin Locke.
Yet the Kiwis, who Australia thrashed in the World Cup final in England earlier this year, have declined the services of the NRL’s best prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, class centre Shaun Kenny-Dowell and abrasive prop Frank-Paul Nu’uausala, all from the Sydney Roosters. Also missing are props Alex Glenn (Broncos) and Sam Kasiano (Bulldogs), centres Krisnan Inu (Bulldogs) and Bryson Goodwin (Rabbitohs) and Warriors duo Manu Vatuvei and Ben Matulino.
Infamous code-swapper Sonny Bill Williams had already confirmed his unavailability.
Sydney Morning Herald chief league writer Brad Walter described the non-selections as a shock, particularly since hooker Silivi Havili has played just three NRL games for the Warriors and first five Isaac John was plucked from the Panthers reserve grade.
But Kearney is refusing to be drawn on the high profile omissions, particularly Waerea-Hargreaves, and is adamant his team has the necessary blend of experience and youth to challenge the Kangaroos.
“Many of these guys have progressed through Junior Kiwis and into full professional and now international careers,” Kearney told Walters. “”We’re still very excited by the talent we have available.”
Australian coach Tim Sheens was cautiously mystified at the Kiwi selection.
“You can’t underestimate what comes out of New Zealand, so we need to be on our game,” Sheens told the paper. “It worries me when you don’t know much about someone and the national coach picks him to play for New Zealand.
“They obviously know the kid can play,” he said of the selection of Havili, “[and] you are not going to get picked in a Test match without having ability.”