New-look Kangaroos set off on a 'journey'
"Journey" was the buzzword for ARLC chairman John Grant and Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga upon naming the Australian test team to face New Zealand in Newcastle on May 6.
Grant said the annual trans-Tasman Test was the beginning of the Kangaroos' expedition to reclaim their spot as the best team in international rugby league.
The Kangaroos named their fourth-most experienced line-up ever to face the Kiwis for the Hunter Stadium clash, including six club captains.
However Meninga also pencilled in Kangaroos debutants Semi Radradra, Blake Ferguson, Josh McGuire and Michael Morgan.
"This is the start of a journey," Grant said.
"There's only going to be two main training sessions before this team plays so things aren't going to change dramatically overnight. What we have is a great team against the world champions.
"We know in this game we're up against it but Mal will build this team. That's the idea. The Four Nations gives us five weeks of that before we continue building into the World Cup next year.
"This is a journey, and we're patient with the outcomes along this journey with the expectations we're going to perform very strongly down the line."
Meninga is keen to bolster the status of international rugby league has he prepares for his first game in charge of the Australian side.
"We have to make the Kangaroos more relevant so hopefully when the players come into camp next week they see the passion I have, the staff has and the game has for the Kangaroos," Meninga said.
"Hopefully we can put it back on that pedestal where it belongs. A successful Australian side is going to lead to a strong international program as well. We'll see how they respond to this New Zealand side who are the best team in the world at the moment."
Only Ferguson, Josh Dugan, Michael Jennings and NSW skipper Paul Gallen are eligible for New South Wales in the 19-man Kangaroos squad.
Former Queensland coach Meninga – the man behind the Maroons' nine State of Origin series wins over the past decade – insisted his state allegiance didn't factor into his selections.
"It doesn't come into my thinking. You just pick who the best players are. Obviously when you look at the competition at the moment, and who the best teams in the competition are, most of these players come from the top teams," he said.
"So it was never a conscious decision. It's just a matter of picking the best players in the best positions."
There was conjecture in the lead-up to Meninga's first ever Test team as to whether Gallen would be named, but Meninga said their conversation at the NSWRL's 'True Blue' dinner last week reminded him of the passion Gallen has for representative football.
"His persona over the last number of years got him his jersey. We need a hard edge in our forward pack based on the last couple of games we've played against the Kiwis. His form too has been excellent and his hard edge will be very important," Meninga said.
"I loved my conversation with him because he showed me how passionate he was about playing rep football. I liked that and I think he can help get the Kangaroos back up to where they belong."