The lead up to Friday night's Anzac Test between the Kangaroos and Kiwis has been dominated by speculation surrounding Johnathan Thurston's fitness, Cameron Smith's 50th cap and the return of Kieran Foran, but one storyline that has gone unnoticed is Simon Mannering's comeback two years after his last match in the black and white jersey.
Mannering was a late withdrawal from the Kiwis' Four Nations squad that toured the UK at the end of last season due to a knee injury, and the former skipper is set to return to the national side for the first time since New Zealand downed the Kangaroos in the corresponding fixture two years ago.
The 30-year old is a veteran of 40 Tests for his country and has been an inspirational figure for both the Kiwis and Warriors since making his NRL debut back in 2005.
A fit-again Mannering has been a standout for the Warriors this season with his dogged defence and tireless carries lifting those around him while also adding plenty of starch to their middle.
In his limited time at the Warriors, Kiwis assistant coach Steve McNamara has seen first-hand just how important the lock forward is to the team, and believes his inclusion in David Kidwell's squad will raise everyone else's game to new heights.
"He's one of those players you weigh from a distance how important he is to a group, but you're not quite sure until you're in that group the sort of influence that he can have," McNamara said.
"It's quite clear from the first day I walked in to the Warriors that the influence and impact Simon has on the people around him [is profound].
"He's a very good player himself – make no mistake about that – but he has that presence and he brings the best out of others."
Teammate Kenny Bromwich has been rooming with Mannering this week and revealed he was using their time together to learn as much as possible from the Kiwis veteran.
"He's got good leadership, he's got a good head on him and his experience in games like this is second to none so it's good to have him here," Bromwich said of Mannering.
"I'm actually rooming with him at the moment so I've been asking him a few questions here and there so it's good to have him around at this time."