Simon Mannering, Issac Luke and Manu Vatuvei are in with a chance of joining an illustious list of players to play in two winning World Cup final teams.
A group of Kiwis would join one of rugby league’s most exclusive lists should New Zealand manage to defend their World Cup title against Australia on Saturday.
In the tournament’s 58-year history, only 13 players – all Australians – have featured in multiple World Cup final wins.
As survivors of New Zealand’s memorable triumph in 2008, New Zealand captain Simon Mannering, hooker Issac Luke and winger Manu Vatuvei have the chance to achieve the rare feat, along with Greg Eastwood should he force his way into Stephen Kearney’s final 17.
Doing so at Old Trafford would place them in illustrious company alongside some of the sport’s greatest players.
Brad Fittler is the only player to have featured in three winning World Cup final teams, while Andrew Johns, Bob Fulton, Arthur Beetson and Ron Coote are among those who have played in two.
Mannering, Luke or Vatuvei have not tasted NRL premiership success and claiming back-to-back World Cups would clearly be the crowning achievement of their careers so far.
“Obviously it was special to be part of making history in 2008,” Mannering said of figuring in the Kiwis’ first World Cup final win.
“It’s been a long time since then and a lot of things have changed but hopefully we can defend the title.
“It’s going to be a massive occasion and a World Cup final only comes around every four or five years so we’ll do our best to make the most of it.”
Vatuvei, who looks to overcome a groin injury to play, says his memories of the 2008 triumph still motivate him five years on.
“Hopefully we can do it back-to-back and do it for the country, also to show that it wasn’t a fluke last time,” he said.
Saturday’s match could feature up to five Australians who played in the surprise 34-20 loss to the Kiwis in the 2008 decider in Brisbane.
Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston, Billy Slater, Greg Inglis and Paul Gallen will be hoping to add to a list of only four players who have lost a final and returned to win a World Cup at the next edition.