Australian captain Cameron Smith will become the first player to play a Test with a gold kangaroo chevron embroidered on the sleeve of his jersey when he leads the Four Nations against New Zealand in Canberra next week.
Smith will wear the commemorative jersey in the ANZAC Test and during the Rugby League World Cup at the end of the season in recognition of becoming just the second Australian to play 50 Tests for the Kangaroos.
Assuming the Kangaroos qualify for the World Cup final and Smith plays all six matches, he would be on track to surpass Darren Lockyer’s record of 59 Tests before the end of his career and earn a special purple Australian jersey for his 60th Test.
The unique jerseys were introduced by Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga last year as a way to boost pride in the national team by honouring individual milestones and acknowledging the significance of each achievement.
Players who reach 20 Tests for Australia now wear a white kangaroo chevron on their sleeves, 30 Tests is marked by bronze, 40 by silver and 50 by gold.
"We've got some big plans for Cameron, we’ve got the milestone jersey already so when we talk about the value of the Kangaroo and our chevron he goes into gold for 50 plus games, which is pretty special," Meninga said.
"There is only one other player [Lockyer] in our history who has achieved that milestone since 1908 and it will be a special week for Cameron and his family, so we will make sure that we treat that with respect and that we value his contribution to Australian rugby league."
Smith will also equal the record of rugby league immortal Clive Churchill when he captains the Kangaroos for the 27th time in the May 5 Test – a feat surpassed only by Lockyer, who skippered Australia on 39 occasions.
Meninga said he was treating the Test as a significant part of the Kangaroos preparations for the World Cup and had decided to give the players who helped Australia win last year’s Four Nations first chance to retain their jerseys for the tournament.
While Smith and others such as secondrowers Boyd Cordner, Matt Gillett and Tyson Frizell, prop Aaron Woods, fullback Darius Boyd and centres Josh Dugan and Will Chambers are in good form, questions have been asked about Trent Merrin and Michael Morgan.
"Their form I don't think really matters when they come back into an environment where they are comfortable, they are happy and are playing with some terrific players. I think that will affect them in a positive way," Meninga said.
"We are pretty open about the selection process for this game in particular, around rewarding and acknowledging players and their efforts in the Four Nations."
Chambers is the only member of the Kangaroos 20-man squad who did not play in the Four Nations and the Melbourne Storm centre replaces the injured Greg Inglis.
There are also doubts over Johnathan Thurston as he has not played for three weeks due to a calf injury but Meninga said he would have no hesitation using him against the Kiwis if he missed North Queensland’s match this weekend.
"No, he doesn’t have to play that game on the weekend, he's a pretty experienced player and knowing John he’ll want to play in the Test match so if he’s fully fit he'll come into camp and go through our protocols," Meninga said.
Cronulla five-eighth James Maloney is the back up for Thurston, while Canberra’s Shannon Boyd will provide cover for any forward injured this weekend and North Queensland centre Justin O’Neill is on standby for the outside backs.
This article first appeared on rlwc2017.com.au