Kangaroos jersey the pinnacle: Renouf
Australian rugby league legend Steve Renouf achieved success at both club and representative level during his playing career, but the Kangaroos great says wearing the green and gold of Australia should be the pinnacle of the game.
On hand for the 'one year to go' 2017 Rugby League World Cup launch in Melbourne, Renouf spoke of the pride and jubilation he felt when he pulled on a Kangaroos jersey.
"I really believe in the Test arena and playing for your country, that was always my big thing even over Origin and a lot of people didn't like me saying that," Renouf said.
"It is the apex for me, and I'm just looking forward to it and I'm hoping people will get out and support it.
"I'll be honest back in the day that was the apex for me, that was the big thing for me to play for my country, I couldn’t believe it when I got selected in 1992 to go in the World Cup then to make my debut, I was so proud."
The former Test centre then put some of the current NRL players on notice, as he struggled to understand why it's become almost a chore to play for Australia, even with the busy schedule that generally attaches itself to the role.
"It probably shouldn’t be [too hard to get players to play], I think possibly these days we can be a little spoilt," Renouf said.
"I just think to get that opportunity to play for your country no matter what sport, I reckon we're probably the only code that sort of complains a little bit about it, and I think the other sports have the right to be a little disgusted at that because you're playing for your country and that should be what you aim for."
For the players that have taken the opportunity to represent their country at the at the Four Nations tournament which starts on Saturday, Renouf believes this competition will serve as a huge marker for how teams are positioned come the 2017 RLWC next year.
"It's massive, everyone wants to win the Four Nations, but I think for guys like Wayne Bennett it's a good preparation for the World Cup," Renouf said.
"He's got to see what players he has got there and what's on offer, and he will make the judgement out of the Four Nations as to how he moulds his team for the World Cup."
The former Bronco's rep teammate in Mal Meninga will lead the charge for Australia during the upcoming tournament, and Renouf said he always knew Meninga had a coaching role in his future.
"There's certain players like Mal and Ricky Stuart who you can see are going to be coaches," Renouf said.
"They love the game and study the game, and I was virtually the opposite, I've never coached or been anywhere near it, but to see Mal come to the fore and what he did with Origin was amazing.
"One thing Mal does, and Wayne Bennett does it too, is they are the head coach but they get really good support staff around them, and that's what's needed [to succeed on the big stage]."
While veterans like Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith will lead Australia during the Four Nations and also most likely into the Rugby League World Cup, it's the next generation of Kangaroos players who will look to transition into leaders after the big names call an end to their careers.
There's one player in particular who stands out to Renouf, although he's quite confident the balance in the current Australian side between young pups and old dogs is just right.
"Michael Morgan [will step up], I've got a big wrap on him I just think he's a great player," Renouf said.
"We've got a great balance at the moment and you need that balance with the old experience because it's not long until those guys retire and they're probably more prone to injuries, so if anything was to happen and they don't make the World Cup for any reason you've got to have players who you can trust to do the job."