Meninga's admiration of Kiwis' evolution
Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga has admitted his admiration for the Kiwis and how their good form in recent years has helped with in growing international rugby league.
Australia have lost their past three games against New Zealand and while Meninga said that hurts in a personal sense it also spells good news for Test football around the world.
"You have to admire what has happened with the Kiwis. I think that it's good for international rugby league. It's what hopefully makes it exciting and puts it back on the back pages," Meninga said at the Downer Test Double Header coaches call on Thursday.
"With Wayne coming on board to the England national side it adds a bit more spice to the international program.
"Deep down we want our teams to be successful but at the end of the day we also want international rugby league to be put back on that pedestal that it deserves."
New Zealand prop Jesse Bromwich, in his first game as skipper, was never going to let Meninga's words soften him.
Bromwich has played an integral part in the Kiwis' recent domination of the Kangaroos and said it's now up to the named squad to continue that progress on Friday night in Newcastle.
"It's time to step up now," Bromwich said.
"We have to protect what Steve and the rest of the boys have built over the last two years. It is a big important match for us and I'll be looking to lead from the front."
With the likes of Greg Eastwood, Martin Taupau and Sam Moa all named on the bench for the Kiwis it's a fair indication of just how good New Zealand's forward pack is.
Meninga is under no illusions about the challenge that Kearney's big men presents for the Kangaroos.
"Their forward pack is exceptional, it has been for a number of years and Steve has built a really strong unit," Meninga said.
"Jesse mentioned the aura they have created in protecting that unit and what they have managed to achieve. It's going to be hard to break down. We're trying to emulate what Steve's created over the past few years in the green and gold jersey."
Even with the Kiwis being without the likes of usuals Kieran Foran, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Manu Vatuvei, Alex Glenn and Ben Matulino, Kearney himself said their preparation for the Test has been as good as any.
Shaun Kenny-Dowall (ankle) was the latest to be ruled out for New Zealand on Thursday with him expected to be replaced by Eels centre Brad Takairangi.
"The boys have adapted really well [with all the changes]. There's a couple of new faces who have come into camp and it's been good," Kearney said.
"The challenge for us will be a little bit different this time around in terms of continuing [our current winning] run. We're confident we can bring our best performance into the game.
"It doesn't bother us the underdog tag. Last year we were underdogs and look what happened. We hold no concern towards that."