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Kangaroos halfback Cooper Cronk says it will take time for the new combinations in the side to develop.
We're still two months away from opening up our Christmas goodies (cue the customary musings on how quick the year's gone), but the festive season has well and truly begun for Kangaroos fans.

No less than five debutants will be unwrapped at Suncorp Stadium this Saturday night, all decked out in green and gold, and coach Tim Sheens is ready to show off all his shiny new toys.

And with the rugby league community still grieving at the loss of megastar Jarryd Hayne from his position at the top of the NRL podium (for now), the new brigade have all arrived at the perfect time. 

But halfback Cooper Cronk, who some might call the resident sage of the team, warns there is a drawback to running a new set of trains on an old track: it takes a bit of time getting used to. 

"We're obviously trying to get some combinations in play, but more importantly, just trying to get the feel back of playing football," he told 

"There's a few guys that have played up until the grand final, but everyone else finished at different times so the key thing is getting the basics right, forming those combinations and obviously go and play well."

By now everyone's well aware that nine players – or 165 Test caps worth of experience, to be precise – are missing from the team that lifted the World Cup trophy last year.

In their place are a bunch of first-timers who, while many of them have survived the gauntlet that is State of Origin, are unaccustomed to the beast that international footy has become.

Acclimatising them to their new environment and team-mates will be key. Which is why Cronk, ever the pragmatist, remains focused on the outcome as opposed to the shiny new playthings that have been placed under the Kangaroos' tree.

"Obviously one, you sit down at the dinner table, get to know these guys, where they're from and their background. But most importantly it's done on the training paddock. Up until today we've had some really good training sessions," he said.

Cronk also cautioned this influx of next-generation talent won't necessarily provide a smooth-running green-and-gold machine straight away.

"We're not going to nail it in the first game, but we need to play at a reasonable level," he said.

"We need to keep the ball from New Zealand, play possession football and obviously score more points. That will be the key, but it'll be a progression as the competition moves on and hopefully we can improve with each game."

Contrary to popular belief, that doesn't mean Cronk is all business and no play. The Storm halfback spoke with genuine eagerness about forming a combination with new halves partner Daly Cherry-Evans. 

It's a new relationship that will come under heavy scrutiny during the game, not so much because of the baby-faced features that are in direct contrast to his mature playmaking skills, but because for the majority of the past decade in the Test arena is a bloke in headgear consistently leading the Kangaroos to victory. 

"There'll be a lot spoken about Daly and I having a combination but the thing that's going for us is that we've played football together for 2-3 years now," Cronk said of the absence of three-time Dally M medal-winner Johnathan Thurston. 

"He's been in and around the system, he's very familiar with the players and the plays that we call on the field. He's been waiting for his opportunity.

"Well, here's his opportunity. And I'm very much looking forward to forming that combination actually. It's integral to how we play, so it'll be a key part."

And so will the new boys, three of whom help make up one of the most inexperienced backlines Australia has ever assembled.

"There's no doubt the team accommodates for the strengths of Daly," Cronk said. 

"We all bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table. Within the structure that Tim will set for us, we obviously stick to that game plan but we also incorporate the strengths of different players. 

"Dylan Walker's very quick and athletic out on the edge, obviously Daniel Tupou's got a really good athletic ability catching the footy and Daly plays some really good ad lib football too, so all those little things we've brought into our game because that's why they've been picked for Australia."
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