Australia doesn’t expect New Zealand to be affected by the off-field prescription drugs scandal that is lingering over the Kiwis when the two sides meet in the mid-year Test on Friday night.
The New Zealanders were unable to select prop Ben Matulino and winger Manu Vatuvei after the late-night affair, which also saw them and four other players stood down from the Warriors’ NRL win over St George Illawarra last weekend.
Vatuvei has since been granted leave on medical grounds, but Kangaroos hardman Sam Thaiday doesn’t think that will adversely impact on the Kiwis when they clash in Newcastle.
“The best thing for the Kiwi team is that it happened before they went into camp,” Thaiday said.
“If something does happen while you’re in camp it is a little bit distracting.
“But these dramas happened a week before and were a Warriors-based distraction, so the Kiwi boys should be fine.”
The selection changes have given the Kiwis the chance to blood youngsters into the team, with Peta Hiku and Manu Ma’u both set to debut.
Meanwhile the loss of Kieran Foran on personal leave has also gifted a chance to dynamic playmaker Kodi Nikorima on the bench, someone both Thaiday and his Brisbane teammate Corey Parker know the dangers of too well.
“There are some guys there who have an opportunity to play for their country, when you get that opportunity it’s pretty special,” Parker said.
“So regardless of who is on the field for them they will be turning out to do their country proud.
“It doesn’t matter what has been said prior, they’ll be ready for it.”
That same desire will also be motivating an ageing Australian team, who have lost their past two matches and their world No.1 ranking to the Kiwis.
“There was probably a squad there that had been selected on their merits year after year, game after game,” Thaiday admitted.
“And maybe we lost the shine and polish off the jersey.
“Now we want to get that passion and pride back and make sure every time we put on that jersey we’re doing the job.”