In-form stars vying for Kiwis call-ups
With just over a week until he names his side for the Trans-Tasman Test, Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney will be spoilt for choice when it comes to picking in-form players.
Don't believe it? Just take a look at the eligible Kiwis who have been among the best in their positions across the opening six Telstra Premiership rounds.
Locks Martin Taupau, Jason Taumalolo and captain Simon Mannering have been consistently strong, while second-rowers Tohu Harris, Elijah Taylor and Iosia Soliola, who played the last of his 11 Tests for the New Zealand in 2009, have also stood out.
Add into that props Jesse Bromwich and Ben Matulino, who both sit inside the top 10 on the Dally M leaderboard heading into Round 7, plus backs Peta Hiku, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Manu Vatuvei who have all produced some eye-catching performances to start the year.
"The player pool is probably the healthiest it's been in a long time to be honest," said back-rower Bodene Thompson, who was a member of the 2014 Four Nations-winning New Zealand squad.
"It's good having that pressure with everyone performing well, and such depth with players right now, it just provides that extra bit for the Kiwis.
"It's something the Kiwis probably haven't had in a long time; it's going to be healthy for New Zealand rugby league.
"They [the selectors and coach] will do the right job."
There will be plenty of players waiting nervously by the phone ahead of the clash with the Kangaroos at Suncorp Stadium on May 1.
Perhaps none more than 26-year-old prop Matulino, who withdrew from last year's Four Nations campaign to rest a number of niggling injuries.
"Not yet… [I haven't heard from Kearney], but hopefully," said Matulino, who has played 19 Tests since 2009.
"He sort of keeps loyal to his team and I guess that team that won the Four Nations, he will probably stay loyal to them.
"I'm not looking too far ahead of myself with the Anzac Test.
"If I make the team then it's all good, but if not then I'm not too disappointed. I'll look after my club first."
Late last month Kearney had gushed at the potential selection headaches he may face ahead of meeting the Kangaroos, pointing out that reputation will only get a player so far.
"Looking around at the NRL competition, and the way the Kiwis are playing in the competition at the moment… they are all in great form and playing some great footy," the coach said at the time.
"There's a number of guys who are playing great footy.
"Everyone is putting their hand up and that's what we are after.
"Form will play a huge part."
The Test is the only international match between the Kangaroos and the Kiwis this year and forms a key part of the NRL's commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the Anzac landings.
The New Zealand Kiwi Ferns and Australian Jillaroos will play the curtain-raiser to the May 1 Test, meeting for the first time since their memorable three-game series at the NRL Auckland Nines earlier this year.