The Kiwis selectors will hope their side plays with the same hard edge they have displayed considering a handful of big names have been omitted from the 19-man squad for the one-off test against Australia in Townsville on October 13.
There's no room for prolific Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei, Wests Tigers prop and former Kiwis vice-captain Adam Blair, Cowboys back-rower Jason Taumalolo or Roosters enforcer Jared Waerea-Hargreaves. Add in the fact Manly centre Steve Matai didn't even make the train-on squad and reputations appeared to count for little.
It means there are a couple of new names in the 19-man squad including Bulldogs prop Sam Kasiano, who confirmed his allegiance to the black jersey rather than the green one after Sunday's NRL grand final, as well as Manly youngster Dean Whare.
There are also recalls for Greg Eastwood, Krisnan Inu, Sam Perrett, Kevin Proctor and Elijah Taylor and Manly's Kieran Foran returns after missing April's Anzac test through injury.
Next year's World Cup came into consideration but coach Stephen Kearney said current form was more important and it was no better illustrated by the fact seven players were involved in Sunday's grand final - five have been picked for the Kangaroos.
"There's no doubt there's a bit of an eye on the World Cup but it's important to have a real focus on what we want to do in Townsville," Kearney said.
"When you look at the side, we have picked it on form. Manu and Adam have been big parts of the Kiwis campaign for a number of years now and it's tough to leave players like that out."
They have also overlooked players out of the UK Super League. Few have played much part in recent seasons, particularly games in Australasia, and Kearney said there was a simple reason why the likes of Lance Hohaia, Jeff Lima and Thomas Leuluai had missed out this time.
"The main hurdle is that they are about to go into winter and it's 32 degrees in Townsville," Kearney said. "Throw into that 24 hours of travel and it just doesn't work."
The Kiwis rarely do well in one-off games, tending to do better in series or campaigns when combinations have time together, and it's one of the reasons why they will go into the match as underdogs. There is plenty of power up front, however, and Kearney will build a simple game plan around their strength.
"For us it's really important to keep in mind the personnel we have. Jesse Bromwich was outstanding on Sunday and Sam [Kasiano] has had a really good year along with Ben Matulino and Greg Eastwood. We have a wonderful opportunity to build a solid platform and Issac Luke can create danger out of dummy half. That's a real strength for us, our forward group."
The Kangaroos have assembled a typically strong outfit with four Melbourne players included. Second-rower Ryan Hoffman has been rewarded for his excellent season with inclusion alongside the Storm's big three of Billy Slater, Clive Churchill Medallist Cooper Cronk and skipper Cameron Smith.
There's no room, however, for in-form Bulldogs fullback Ben Barba, with Wests Tigers captain Robbie Farah filling the utility role on the interchange bench.
New Zealand squad: Benji Marshall (Wests Tigers - c), Gerard Beale (Brisbane), Jesse Bromwich (Melbourne), Greg Eastwood (Bulldogs), Kieran Foran (Manly), Josh Hoffman (Brisbane), Krisnan Inu (Bulldogs), Shaun Johnson (Warriors), Sam Kasiano (Bulldogs), Issac Luke (South Sydney), Simon Mannering (Warriors), Ben Matulino (Warriors), Sam McKendry (Penrith), Sam Perrett (Bulldogs), Frank Pritchard (Bulldogs), Kevin Proctor (Melbourne), Jeremy Smith (Cronulla), Elijah Taylor (Warriors), Dean Whare (Manly).
Australia: Billy Slater, Darius Boyd, Josh Morris, Greg Inglis, Brett Morris, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Matt Scott, Cameron Smith (capt), James Tamou, Greg Bird, Paul Gallen, Nate Myles. Interchange: Robbie Farah, Ryan Hoffman, David Shillington, Tony Williams, Ben Te'o (18th man).
- APNZBy Michael Brown Email Michael