They might be banned from playing in the Rugby League World Cup, but New Zealand forward Simon Mannering says disgraced pair Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor will always be part of the Kiwis team.
Ahead of Saturday's crunch pool match against Tonga in Hamilton, Mannering confirmed he had recently exchanged messages with both players, who were stood down from World Cup selection after they were caught on CCTV snorting cocaine in the early morning hours following the Kiwis Anzac test loss in Canberra in May.
Bromwich, the former Kiwis captain and Melbourne Storm front-rower, and Gold Coast Titans back-rower Proctor were suspended and fined by their NRL clubs in the wake of the incident before Kiwis management issued further sanctions.
The Herald revealed last week that Proctor had made a desperate bid to keep his World Cup dream alive by approaching Scotland Rugby League about the possibility of switching allegiances to play for the Bravehearts.
The 28-year-old was ultimately denied the chance to pull on the tartan shorts after investigations revealed his Scottish ties were too far removed.
However, Mannering insists both players' hearts still lie with the Kiwis and says he is excited by the prospect of representing New Zealand alongside them again in the future.
"I got a [good luck] text. I know [after] speaking to both of them, probably more Jesse of late, that they're still very passionate about this team and the jersey," said Mannering.
"And as his teammate, I'm looking forward to the next time I get the chance to play alongside them.
"Everyone knows what happened. What's done is done and we all make mistakes and they've been through that process and we have as a group as well and we're moving forward and will hopefully see them back in the jersey sometime soon."
When asked if he still considers the pair to be a part of the Kiwis team Mannering replied: "Always. Whenever you get a Kiwis number you're part of the group."