David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

League: Return of the Kiwis' enforcer

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves will make his return for the Kiwis on Saturday night. Photo / photosport.nz
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves will make his return for the Kiwis on Saturday night. Photo / photosport.nz

The Kiwis are looking to atone for their Anzac test defeat to Australia with the forward pack determined to prove a point when they meet the Kangaroos in Perth on Saturday.

An understrength Kiwis outfit produced a strong defensive effort but the Kangaroos were good enough to halt a three-game losing streak with a 16-0 transtasman test win in Newcastle in May.

After dominating Australia through the middle of the park in twin victories in the 2014 Four Nations and last year's Anzac test in Brisbane, New Zealand's big men struggled to gain momentum at Hunter Stadium which blunted their attempts at creating second-phase play.

Veteran Kiwis centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall admits that result has not been forgotten and says the forwards are fired-up and eager to impose themselves physically at Nib Stadium.

"The boys are probably out to make amends this time around," Kenny-Dowall told Radio Sport.

"It's definitely been spoken about and we've got big Jared (Waerea-Hargreaves) back in there now and Jason Taumalolo so we've got some forwards in fine form and I'm pretty sure the boys will be ready to take it to them.

"It starts in the middle with the big boys and we just have to hold on to the ball and complete our sets and go toe to toe with them.

"If we do that we'll put them under a lot of pressure and be very competitive."

Fiery front-rower Waerea-Hargreaves is certainly not lacking in personal motivation after being recalled for his first test in three years.

The 27-year-old found himself on the outer after a run of underwhelming performances against Australia and throughout the 2013 World Cup which culminated in the Kiwis embarrassing 34-2 tournament final loss to the Kangaroos at Old Trafford.

The Sydney Roosters enforcer has since overcome an ACL injury to perform strongly through the latter part of the NRL season and won back his test starting spot ahead of former Kiwis co-captain Adam Blair who is on the interchange bench.

"He's very pumped," said club teammate Kenny-Dowall. "He's had a few years out and he set himself this goal a long time ago to get into this squad and he's worked really hard and overcome a massive injury.

"He really started to play some good football towards the end of the year and he's jumping out of his skin."

A renowned big personality, Waerea-Hargreaves returns to the side more experienced and with greater maturity, having become a father last year to young daughter Zahli Rae.

"Jared has sort of reminded me of myself," said new Kiwis coach David Kidwell. "I was out of the jersey for a couple of years and got an opportunity to take it again.

"You mature with age and you just look at things a bit differently, you've got kids, so he's been really great for the team.

"I didn't want him to change as a person but he's said himself he's matured and really looking forward to Saturday.

"He's excited and really looking forward to wearing that black jersey again."

The loss of former captain Simon Mannering, who is recovering from minor knee surgery, cannot be understated. The Kiwis have managed just one win in their last four tests without the 30-year-old back-rower, with illness and injury preventing him from playing in last year's two-one series loss to England and the most recent Anzac encounter.

In his absence, Kenny-Dowall has no doubts that Melbourne back-rowers Kevin Proctor and Tohu Harris will step up and provide defensive security on either side of the ruck.

"Those Melbourne boys are based on defence and they're great wrestlers and I'm sure they'll be looking to work the ground against a big Australian forward pack as well."

Perth's large Kiwi-expat community have already made an impression on the New Zealand side and Kenny-Dowall hopes they will turn out in large numbers for what is an historic first test in the Western Australian capital.

"We've only been here a few days but there's plenty of Kiwis over here and it's close to a sell-out.

"Hopefully it's the majority of the Kiwi crew in Perth out here on Saturday night giving the Aussie's hell."

- NZ Herald

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