GREG Eastwood is just 80 minutes away from winning back his New Zealand jersey despite an injury-interrupted start to his second stint with Canterbury.
Eastwood returned from two broken wrists in Saturday night’s 36-24 win over South Sydney and faces his former club Brisbane on Friday night.
“He obviously comes into contention if he gets another game under his belt,” New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney tells RLW.
“I know what Greg’s capable of with a couple of games under his belt so it’s a wait and see thing.”
The New Zealand side assembles on the Gold Coast overnight on Sunday as the team is being announced – which means selectors walk a precarious line in deciding exactly when to tap players on the shoulder over the coming days.
Some players will no doubt go into games this weekend knowing they have already been picked – some like Eastwood need to know if they are packing for two days or a week before leaving for Queensland.
The loss of Manu Vatuvei and Sam Perrett to injury means Bulldog Bryson Goodwin also has plenty to play for on Friday. Melbourne’s Matt Duffie could be a bolter.
“We’ve got a couple of options in that position with Manu and Sammy out,” said Kearney. “Bryson Goodwin, who’s played Test match footy, is a left winger. He obviously comes into contention
Kearney will not be recalling any Super League players. He acknowledges the Anzac Test is a mountain his side still needs to climb.
“We competed well last year and we’ve learnt what we certainly need to do better this year,” he said.
“You get a short time to prepare the group … it is a different mentality but I just think the consistency of the group that has been involved mid-year – they’ve been there enough times now to know what to expect in these campaigns.
Of the Australian side, also picked on Sunday, he says: “I reckon the group picks itself in that (Johnathan) Thurston’s playing wonderful footy, Locky’s (Darren Lockyer) playing as good as I’ve seen, Billy (Slater), Cameron (Smith) – there’s your core group.
“(Justin) Hodges is playing great footy too. I think it will be fairly predictable.
“For us, we always try to take a step closer to Australia. This is another opportunity to do that.”
Don’t try telling Kearney the world champions can’t learn anything from the green and golds.
“You’re not going to get me with that one,” he says. “Australia still set the benchmark in our game in terms of consistency. That’s where we’re aiming to get to so this is another opportunity.
“It’s a prize that has eluded us in a sense and we understand what we need to do. It’s just a matter of preparing properly and taking a great opportunity on the night.”
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK