Kangaroos captain Cameron Smith has dismissed suggestions Valentine Holmes hasn’t earned his Test debut after the Cronulla star was named to play against the Kiwis in Perth on Saturday.
Holmes joins Shannon Boyd and Tyson Frizell as Australia debutants at nib Stadium.
Sharks premiership winner Holmes was selected on his unaccustomed left wing after Semi Radradra was ruled out of selection for the Four Nations squad ahead of a court appearance over domestic violence allegations.
Josh Mansour is also missing from the side. The Penrith star gets married in Sydney on Saturday.
Holmes’ Sharks triumphed over Smith’s Melbourne in the NRL grand final two weeks ago and the Storm skipper said the hard-running winger deserved Kangaroos selection after an outstanding season.
“He is just another of the many exciting young players in the NRL competition,” Smith said on Friday.
“It is a great opportunity for Valentine.
“He is not just a token selection. He has played exceptionally well this year.
“He has had a very consistent season and I am really excited to be playing with him.”
Holmes has done well to bounce back from an off-field incident in Brisbane in February, which resulted in him being banned for selection from the Queensland side.
“It was a huge disappointment for him earlier in the year because he would have come close to selection in that (Origin) series,” Queensland skipper Smith said.
“But the best thing about Val is that he has put that behind him. He put his head down and worked hard to be in the position he is in now.”