Captain Boyd Cordner is the most experience player in the Aussie side.
Captain Boyd Cordner is the most experience player in the Aussie side.

Mal backs 'Roos rookies against Kiwis

AUSTRALIAN coach Mal Meninga has picked a fresh side with a few shocks for the rugby league Test match in New Zealand on Saturday night.

The Kangaroos go into the match with the most experienced player Boyd Cordner on 16 Tests, while Australia's spine will feature three debutants.

Fullback James Tedesco, five-eighth Luke Keary and hooker Damien Cook will all make their debuts alongside vice-captain and halfback Daly Cherry-Evans.

It's also a huge selection for Tom Trbojevic, who has been selected at centre, pushing Dane Gagai to the wing.

The Manly fullback will play his first Test match with his older brother Jake.

Tom admitted it was "touch and go" whether he would be fit for Kangaroos duty after suffering the serious facial injury in the NRL's final round.

The Sea Eagles speedster was ruled out for six weeks by Manly after undergoing surgery.

But barely five weeks after going under the knife, Trbojevic is set to play against the Kiwis alongside his big brother.

Tom Trbojevic beats his brother Jake during Kangaroos training.
Tom Trbojevic beats his brother Jake during Kangaroos training.

"It (the fracture) was a bit touch and go but I've been seeing the surgeon regularly and he gave me the all clear," Trbojevic said.

"Initially he thought it wouldn't have been good but he kept looking at it and said I'd be right to go.

"To get picked in the side made it all better."

Trbojevic now gets the chance to fulfil a childhood dream.

The brothers were denied a chance to play together for Australia at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup when backrower Jake Trbojevic broke down with a tournament-ending pectoral injury.

"It would be everything. We grew up together playing backyard footy together and doing everything together," Tom Trbojevic said of playing alongside his sibling.

"Ten years ago you wouldn't have dreamed to be doing what we are now.

"It would be a surreal experience if we do get to do it."

In the forwards, North Queensland prop Jordan McLean is in the starting front rower despite just 10 games this season, alongside Bulldogs hardman David Klemmer and Cook.

New Kangaroos skipper Cordner and Melbourne's Felise Kaufusi are in the back-row with Brisbane lock Josh McGuire.

Dragons forward Tyson Frizell is set to start off the bench for the Kangaroos.
Dragons forward Tyson Frizell is set to start off the bench for the Kangaroos.

St George Illawarra halfback Ben Hunt held out Gold Coast-bound Tyrone Peachey to grab the bench utility spot.

Cordner took over the national reins after Greg Inglis was stood down for this month's Tests - which also features an October 20 clash against Tonga - following drink-driving and speeding charges.

Meanwhile, Kiwis coach Michael Maguire has made the surprise choice of naming Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to captain New Zealand in Saturday's rugby league Test against Australia. 

The 23-year-old Penrith fullback has just eight Tests to his name and his promotion comes amid a host of injury absences and retirements and ahead of several more experienced options.

Maguire had no doubt about Watene-Zeleniak's ability to steer the Kiwis into a new era.

"Dallin lives the values we're looking for and embodies the new direction we're heading in with the Kiwis," Maguire said.

Kangaroos: 1. James Tedesco, 2. Dane Gagai, 3. Latrell Mitchell, 4. Tom Trbojevic, 5. Valentine Holmes, 6. Luke Keary, 7. Daly Cherry-Evans, 8. David Klemmer, 9. Damien Cook, 10. Jordan McLean, 11. Boyd Cordner (capt), 12. Felise Kaufusi, 13. Josh McGuire. Interchange: 14. Ben Hunt, 15. Jake Trbojevic, 16. Tyson Frizell, 17. Aaron Woods. Reserves: 18. Tyrone Peachey, 19. Reagan Campbell-Gillard.

New Zealand: 1. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (c), 2. Ken Maumalo, 3. Esan Marsters, 4. Joseph Manu, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Shaun Johnson, 7. Kodi Nikorima, 8. Jesse Bromwich, 9. Brandon Smith, 10. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 11. Kevin Proctor, 12. Isaac Liu, 13. James Fisher-Harris. Interchange: 14. Kenny Bromwich, 15. Leeson Ah Mau, 16. Martin Taupau, 17. Adam Blair. 18. Peta Hiku, 19. Jahrome Hughes.


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