The gulf in experience and reputation of five-eighths, Australian Johnathan Thurston and Kiwi Isaac John, for Friday’s Test is about as great as it can be.
One is the reigning Golden Boot winner with 30 rugby league Tests to his name, the other is a Penrith reserve grader in his debut international.
The gulf in experience and reputation between opposing five-eighths in Friday’s Test, Australia’s Johnathan Thurston and New Zealand’s Isaac John, could not be more pronounced.
Thurston is rated as rugby league’s greatest player while John is languishing in Penrith’s NSW Cup side.
But John can call upon Kiwi legend Olsen Filipaina for inspiration ahead of the duo’s Allianz Stadium showdown.
Filipaina etched his named in New Zealand folklore when, in a modern day David and Goliath tale, he was plucked out of Balmain Tigers’ reserve grade side in 1985 and led the Kiwis to a famous win at Carlaw Park, while marking none other than the great Wally Lewis.
New Zealand have been hit hard by injuries with playmakers Kieran Foran, Thomas Leuluai and Josh Hoffman all unavailable to fill the No.6 jersey and Rabbitohs rake Issac Luke out with a shoulder injury.
Kiwi coach Stephen Kearney on Wednesday named John to partner Shaun Johnson in the halves.
Fellow debutant Ben Henry will play hooker.
Despite the gap in reputations of Thurston and John, Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens stressed the North Queensland co-captain would need to be on his game.
“Johnno just has to worry about his game,” Sheens said.
“The Kiwi boys will just be looking to play well themselves, and Johnathan’s the same.
“I’m sure the effort will be there. No matter who plays for the Kiwis, it’s the same with the Australian jumper – you’ll get an effort. The intensity’s always there.”
The Kiwis are rated rank outsiders for the match, a fact coach Stephen Kearney is well aware of.
“We’ve had a solid couple of days together, and all the lads have really impressed me with their enthusiasm and energy,” Kearney said.
“We’re under no illusions about the task ahead of us – the Aussies are a world champion side and we will have to be on top of our game to match them.
“But we have confidence in our talent, and there’s definitely a spirit in this group that augurs well for this game and beyond.”
New Zealand: Peta Hiku, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Dean Whare, Gerard Beale, Jason Nightingale, Isaac John, Shaun Johnson, Jesse Bromwich, Ben Henry, Sam Moa, Simon Mannering (capt), Kevin Proctor, Adam Blair, Siliva Havili, Martin Taupau, Greg Eastwood, Tohu Harris, Kenny Bromwich (18th man).