Friend to learn from Smith on Kangaroos tour
Kangaroos rookie Jake Friend credits the recent Prime Minister's XIII match for his selection in Australia's 24-man squad for the upcoming Four Nations tour.
Friend - the Sydney Roosters' Jack Gibson Medal winner for 2016 - said the match in Papua New Guinea helped push his cause for national selection, and also gave him an insight into how the game's other stars went about their business.
While Friend was a standout at club level this season, it was a disappointing overall campaign for the Roosters, with the three-time defending minor premiers finishing 15th in 2016.
"For me it was very important," he told NRL.com when discussing the match in Port Moresby.
"We didn't do what we wanted as a team at the Roosters this year, so I think the game in PNG was a chance for me to push my case as an individual.
"It gave me the chance to show the selectors and the other players how I play. I was really looking forward to that game, I had a great time over there and now I'm excited to be in this tour.
"It was a good chance to see how different players operate on the field and how they perform at training and that sort of stuff. Personally you take a lot out of that and hopefully I can use some of what I learnt in the future."
One of the players he will spend plenty of time studying is Kangaroos skipper and fellow hooker Cameron Smith.
The Storm star is the main reason why Friend hasn't represented the Maroons at State of Origin level, but instead of being jealous of his main rival, the Rooster said he would take the next few weeks as an opportunity to learn from the champion No.9.
"He's the best in my position and obviously one of the best players in the game," Friend said.
"It will be really good to see how he trains and try to pick up what I can off him. It'll be a good experience for me and something I'm really looking forward to.
"That Queensland side is a great team and they've got some players who have been there for a while and will be there for a few more years. Origin is still a dream of mine, but so is playing for my country."
It remains unclear what role the 26-year-old will play in the UK, with the Roosters skipper admitting that Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga hadn't talked game plans with him yet.
Friend will come into calculations for the pool match against Scotland at Kingston Communications Stadium, but even if he doesn't get a game this time around, he is still proud to have made it this far.
"I haven't chatted to him about it yet so my main priority is to just get into camp and rip into some training," he said.
"If I do get a game then I'll be thrilled, but I'm sure Mal will tell me what my role is in the next few days.
"I'm just really proud and excited to have made the squad."