Kiwis positive about Test experience
They may have been kept scoreless by the Kangaroos on Friday night but Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney was excited by New Zealand's ever-growing Test talent pool.
Kearney's ravaged Kiwis team was the talk of the town in the lead-up to the Downer Test at Hunter Stadium with the likes of Kieran Foran, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Peta Hiku, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Manu Vatuvei, Ben Matulino, Alex Glenn and Thomas Leuluai all unavailable.
It allowed for Kearney to blood three debutants in Manu Ma'u, Kenny Bromwich and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak. Eels centre Brad Takairangi joined the Kiwis in Newcastle and earned invaluable experience as the side's 18th man.
Kearney's willingness to give players a shot in the black and white jersey has played dividends in the past two years with the likes of Martin Taupau and Jason Taumalolo becoming first team regulars since.
"What I do take from this game is there was an opportunity tonight for Manu Ma'u and Dallin – I won't say his second name because it's a mouthful – and Gerard Beale who got an opportunity through injury," Kearney said following the 16-0 defeat.
"Guys like that, Kenny Bromwich, they get an opportunity and it's a learning experience. For me it was experience that was a positive one for them.
"Yeah we came off with a loss and there were areas of our game we were disappointed with but I thought that gave those guys a real taste. It just builds the pool of players that we can call upon. That's a real positive."
Kearney was a very happy man to finally see Watene-Zelezniak run out for his debut as a Kiwi after several previous false starts.
Watene-Zelezniak has been unavailable for the Kiwis' past two major tours while a dangerous throw charge on Cronulla's Wade Graham rubbed him out of the corresponding Trans-Tasman Test last year.
"We have had him in cotton wool. He jumped up for a high ball at the captains' run and I was thinking all sorts but it was nice to get him out there," Kearney said.
"He's a young talented athlete and I think over the course of time when he gets more experience like that under his belt, he's going to be a real diamond."
The Kiwis were forced into an extra 91 tackles than their more-fancied Kangaroos opponents and showed their grit by denying the Australians multiple try-scoring opportunities.
It was enough for Kearney to suggest they at least laid an early platform for the Four Nations at season's end as well as next year's World Cup.
"I thought it was a wonderful effort and the point that I made to the boys in the shed was that it was a real foundation for us to build on," Kearney said.
"Everyone kept reminding us of who they have in their side so for us to keep them out the way that we did took a lot of courage and a lot of effort and I certainly couldn't fault that."
"It's not a setback, it's a lesson of where we need to be better and that's how I look at it."