Sterling Gold: Rookie 'Roos have got the goods
Despite a natural case of nerves, Jharal Yow Yeh should still feel very much at home when he makes his Test debut for the Kangaroos on Friday night.
With just 41 NRL games under his belt, the 21-year-old was the surprise selection to take on the Kiwis. Outside of being a part of the Indigenous All Stars games the closest the rookie winger had come to representative football was being named as 18th man for Queensland during last year's State of Origin series.
However when he lines up on the right flank against the current World Cup champs at Skilled Park he need only glance to his left to feel very confident.
On his inside will be his vastly experienced Broncos teammates in Darren Lockyer, Sam Thaiday and Justin Hodges to help him through the night.
Along with a flying personal start to the season, this club combination must surely have played a big part in him getting the nod over the likes of Jarryd Hayne and Akuila Uate. It makes a lot of sense with only a short preparation time available that in tight selection decisions you go with the familiarity of club connections.
With Mark Gasnier back to his best, this consideration would also have helped Justin Hodges regain a green and gold jersey.
While the role of wingers has definitely changed over the years their ability to get the ball over the line is still paramount.
In those 41 games in the top grade Yow Yeh has crossed for an impressive 22 tries. I'd like a racehorse in the stable that boasted the same strike-rate.
Many of these touchdowns have been followed by the description “athletic” and it is obvious that he has a great build, abundant speed and is particularly good in the air.
Against the Tigers in round seven, he gave Tim Moltzen and Matt Utai no chance when leaping high for a Darren Lockyer bomb to score the first try in Brisbane's 31-18 victory.
His understanding of the Lockyer kicking game is something that Aussie coach Tim Sheens will be looking to take advantage of against a Kiwi side that has been vulnerable to chips and grubbers behind their back-line in the past. Three of Jharal's five tries this season have come off the Lockyer boot.
In the opening game of the season against North Queensland we saw the skipper deliberately chip into the corner for his winger to regather after Cowboys fullback Matt Bowen was afforded a very unfavourable bounce.
Then in round four he was again on hand to score against Penrith after some nice interplay between Thaiday and Lockyer had brought the defence forward to open space out wide in which to direct the ball.
The most impressive kick-chase however was a completely individual effort against Canberra in the national capital.
With the round two clash still very much in the balance Jharal in confined space caught and kicked the ball 25 metres into the in-goal to score.
This reaction, initiative and execution obviously did not go unnoticed by selectors.
While try-scoring is important, so too is the work required in bringing the ball down from the other end of the field. In fact, carries by the back three early in the set determine the quality of the six tackles and establish the field position to allow the team to play attacking football.
These days wingers are expected to work hard and often in bringing the ball out of their own end. This again is an area in which the young man has excelled with any number of probing runs from his own side of half-way.
However the biggest danger for the Kiwis against this Brisbane right-side formation will again be the vision of champion five-eighth Darren Lockyer.
The Australian captain has had a wonderful start to his final season playing with absolute control and composure and invariably making all the right decisions at the right time. The familiar faces on his outside will simply line up to again take advantage.
The elevation of Cronulla prop Kade Snowden into the national side is also just reward.
Despite the Sharks putting together five straight losses he has been one of their few shining lights.
After making his Origin debut for NSW in game three last year, he has continued his good form this season at club level in a side that has competed hard but lacked results.
The former Novocastrian has an excellent work ethic and has actually upped his game time in recent weeks. After averaging 48 minutes in the opening five rounds he has contributed over 60 minutes in his last three outings.
However the big attraction he brings to the Kangaroos is a real skill level and ball-playing ability. While Petero Civinoceva, Matt Scott and Ben Hannant are all outstanding front-rowers I think it is fair to say that in passing the football Kade is the most natural.
A good gauge is how a player reacts when he finds himself in open space.
In round five against Manly the big man showed great evasion to put a left foot step on Joe Galuvao to burst into the clear. After galloping 30 metres he looked left but realised that the unmarked support players were to his right. He straightened to draw full-back Will Hopoate and put Stuart Flanagan under the posts untouched. There was an obvious instinct in setting up the play perfectly.
Two weeks later against North Queensland he again broke the front line but this time used lower body strength to break through the tackle of Dallas Johnson. That in itself is no mean feat. With the defence converging Albert Kelly loomed off his shoulder but actually overran the ball-carrier. Kade, again summing up the situation, resisted the temptation to throw a low percentage pass and opted for the more favourable play-the-ball to keep the attack bubbling.
On both of these occasions Snowden played what was in front of him and came up with the right option.
There is no greater high than donning the Australian jersey for the very first time. For Jharal Yow Yeh, Kade Snowden and Jamal Idris a dream will be realised this Friday night and hopefully it will be the first of many more to come.