Menzies and Mullins know the rookie blues
Two of the rookies from Australia's last great Kangaroo Tour have warned this year's batch of debutants about the pitfalls of their breakthrough seasons.
This spring's lengthy list of withdrawals forced Sheens to call on 11 first-timers for the Four Nations tournament, five of whom made their debut in last Saturday night's loss to New Zealand.
Now the school of rookies will spend the next 24 waiting anxiously as Sheens deliberates making any changes for this weekend's must-win clash against England, and former Kangaroos representative Steve Menzies says he remembers exactly what they're going through.
The Sea Eagles icon was just 20 when he was selected for Australia's ten-week tour of England and France. And while Menzies didn't play a Test on tour, he featured in many exhibition matches against overseas club teams.
"Obviously I was only a young kid and to get selected with the likes of Mal [Meninga] and those types of people, was a bit overwhelming. It takes a while to feel that you belong there. It's just such a great experience and opportunity of a lifetime really," Menzies told NRL.com.
"When you play first grade for the first time, or State of Origin, it's hard to jump right into it. You're obviously there because you're a quality player, but it's tough because they're the guys you look up to as a kid and you're running alongside them."
Menzies, who played 13 Tests for the Kangaroos between 1995 and 2006, admitted he was more nervous on the training paddock than playing against opposing nations.
"The sooner you feel like you belong, then you can settle down. Once the game's up and running, I think that was the easiest part for me," he said.
"Once the game's up and running they're just your team-mates, you'll shout things and call things like you'd normally do at club level.
"All the training and stuff, that's probably more intimidating then playing the game because you see the guys that you're playing with at training, you can see them as who they were as players. On the field, they're more team-mates. That's how I looked at it, if I needed to say something to someone, it needed to happen because it was the heat of the battle."
Brett Mullins, like 2014 Rabbitohs duo Alex Johnston and Dylan Walker, earned his first Australian jumper on the back of a breakthrough season that included the 1994 premiership victory. He also broke a club tryscoring record and took out the Dally M Fullback of the Year award.
The Canberra legend, who went on to play five Tests for Australia, recalled how things turned sour after that special season.
"That year was a blur. Everything just happened so fast. We made the Grand Final, [I] played State of Origin, and then a Kangaroo tour. So it was a year where I'd done everything I envisaged I could do," he said.
"To do it in one year... the next few years I tapered off a bit, I rested on my laurels a bit. But that happens. It was a great year for me, '94. It was definitely one of the best years I had."
Mullins said the strict discipline of Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire, who spent one season alongside the former NSW fullback in 1998, would ensure the ascent enjoyed by his star pair would continue on its trajectory.
"Nowadays they're better trainers. They do a lot more, it's more physical. I guarantee they'll have their heads on next year," he said.
"Back 20 years ago when I was playing it was a bit different. It was a bit more relaxed. That's the way I see it, anyway. I think [Johnston and Walker] now, under Michael Maguire as coach – he played with us at the Raiders – he knows what it's all about, he'll have their heads screwed on no doubt."