Debutants urged to stake their claim
Two players are in line to make their Test debut for the Kangaroos against New Zealand on Saturday night and senior members of the squad are urging them to make the most of it.
With Josh Mansour and Aaron Woods both unavailable for selection this weekend before they join the 24-man squad for the Four Nations tour of England and incumbent Semi Radradra ruled out of contention altogether, at least two of the seven rookies named by coach Mal Meninga are expected to get their first taste of international footy at Perth's nib Stadium.
The absence of Woods leaves only Matt Scott, David Klemmer and Shannon Boyd as the only genuine front-rowers at Meninga's disposal, a maiden call-up representing an incredible elevation for 24-year-old Raider Boyd.
Dally M Winger of the Year Mansour will miss the Test as he had the date set aside for his wedding, leaving the wing spots open for Blake Ferguson and either Justin O'Neill or Cronulla sensation Valentine Holmes to make their debuts.
Like Boyd, it would mark an astonishing rise for Holmes who was one of eight merging Origin attendees to be banned from Origin selection but Cronk said the challenge for all potential debutants was to turn one Test into an extended stint as a Kangaroo.
"The makeup of the team is yet to be decided for Saturday's game but I'm pretty sure the way Mal coaches, every player in the squad will get an opportunity at some stage to sing the national anthem and represent the green and gold," said Cronk ahead of his 29th Test. "From then, it's up to them to determine how long they want to play in the jersey.
"There's a core group of players that have been involved in the Australian team for a long time so to have that stability around the team allows you to have an influx of new players and every one of them deserve their spot.
"There are a couple of Cronulla guys that have been very influential in their success, Shannon Boyd dominated for Canberra at the back-end of the year and the other debutants such as Tyson Frizell have played really well at Origin level."
Champion Cowboys five-eighth Johnathan Thurston will play the 34th Test for his country on Saturday night with a record of 17 wins and just two losses from his 20 clashes with the Kiwis to date.
Confirming his intention to play on until at least the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, Thurston reaffirmed the need for the newcomers to uphold the standards expected of Kangaroo representatives.
"Everyone's aware that there are a few of us that are in the back-end of our careers so it's about enjoying this time and when you get the chance to put on the green and gold jersey that you do it justice," said Thurston, who has never previously played in Perth.
"There is a lot of youth that Mal has picked. Obviously he's got one eye on the World Cup next year as well so looking forward to getting to know those boys over the next few weeks and building up a really strong friendship.
"That's what these tours are about, creating a lot of good memories and I'm sure we'll do that.
"Matt Moylan, Jimmy Maloney, looking forward to getting to know those boys and having some fun while we're away."