Hiku keen to fill RTS void for Kiwis
Panthers centre Peta Hiku has put his hand up to fill the void left at fullback for the Kiwis following Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's season-ending ACL injury.
Hiku was shattered for his New Zealand teammate and heard about Tuivasa-Sheck's plight just hours before Penrith's 20-16 win over the Roosters on Monday night.
The 23-year-old is no stranger to playing fullback at international level having played five of his nine tests for New Zealand there.
The Kiwis' Mr Fix-It also played exclusively in the halves during New Zealand's tour of England last year with usual pairing Kieran Foran and Shaun Johnson unavailable.
"I'm happy to play anywhere in the black-and-white jumper. It's something I want to do at every opportunity and every international game, no matter what kind of game it is," Hiku told NRL.com ahead of the May 6 test against Australia.
"If fullback is where I have to be to put the jersey on then I'm happy to do that.
"I heard [about Tuivasa-Sheck] before the game and it's so unlucky for him. To go home to play for the Warriors, and for that to happen, it's just something you don't want," he added.
"As a mate I feel sorry for him and I wish him all the best with it all."
Hiku also said Panthers teammate Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was ready to finally make his Kiwis debut after his two false starts in two years.
The Panthers winger was set to make his debut in the 2014 Four Nations but suffered a fractured foot in the lead-up which ruled him out of the entire tournament.
This time last year Watene-Zelezniak was named for New Zealand on the wing for the Trans-Tasman test but was suspended due to a dangerous throw on Cronulla's Wade Graham in the NRL the week prior.
"Maybe if he stops being such a grub, he'll get a game," Hiku laughed.
"I think Dallin is definitely playing good enough footy to be there though. Dallin's been really unlucky with the Kiwis but everything happens for a reason I believe and hopefully his turn comes soon."
Meanwhile, Hiku was hopeful the Panthers will make life easier for coach Anthony Griffin in the coming weeks after another tight finish.
Their win over the Roosters was their sixth straight game where the difference between them and their opponents was six points or less.
"Hopefully there's not too many more close games for the rest of the season, just in terms of being able to put games away a bit earlier than we have been," Hiku said.
"From week one we have made progress, we all feel confident with how we're going and we can only get better.
"Everything seems to be going well for us at training but I suppose with the new-look team we have here – and such a young one at that – everybody still has a lot to learn. That's a big reason why we can only get better."