Waerea-Hargreaves' Test hiatus over
Sydney Roosters front-rower Jared Waerea-Hargreaves will be out to make up for lost time when he represents New Zealand for the first time in three years on Saturday night at Perth's nib Stadium.
Waerea-Hargreaves last featured for the Kiwis in their disappointing 2013 World Cup final loss to Australia despite previously playing 16 Tests.
Dropped for New Zealand's trans-Tasman Test six months later, Waerea-Hargreaves failed to play for the Kiwis throughout Stephen Kearney's remaining tenure as coach.
Though an ACL injury in late 2015 didn't help his cause, Waerea-Hargreaves now has a new lease on life in the international arena under new coach David Kidwell with Kearney moving on to the Warriors for the 2017 NRL Telstra Premiership season.
If anybody can relate to Waerea-Hargreaves it is Kidwell.
Kidwell – who achieved 25 caps for the Kiwis in his storied career – went almost four years to the day in the early 2000s without being picked for New Zealand.
Kidwell said he sees himself in the 27-year-old.
"When you're given the opportunity to take the jersey on again, you have matured with age and you just look at everything differently," Kidwell said.
"He has been really great for us this week. I don't want him to change as a person but you can tell he's just really matured and I'm really looking forward to seeing him play.
"Jared's obviously had a number of serious injuries in the past couple of years. But his form at the back end of this season warranted selection.
"Talking to him, he's excited and really looking forward to wearing that black-and-white jumper once again."
Waerea-Hargreaves will partner Kiwis skipper Jesse Bromwich in the front row against the Kangaroos which means Adam Blair will start from the bench.
Blair – who co-captained the Kiwis not even 12 months ago during their tour of Great Britain – remains an important member of New Zealand's side, according to Kidwell.
"Adam being on the bench is a testament to the depth of our squad. Everyone has a part to play in the team," Kidwell said.
"Adam is a big part of our leadership group and it's a role that he loves and enjoys. He's very important for us no matter where he plays."
The Kiwis' depth means there were some hard luck stories to come from Kidwell's first ever squad selection, including Raiders veteran Sia Soliola.
"100 per cent Sia came into calculations. But there's only 24 players who can make the squad," Kidwell said.
"I've played with Sia and I know firsthand what he can produce. There's no doubting he had a wonderful year but I have to look towards the future as well."