Rugby league: Dallin Watene-Zelezniak named Kiwis captain for Kangaroos test

  • 09/10/2018

Coach Michael Maguire has made the surprise choice of Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to captain New Zealand in Saturday's rugby league Test against Australia.

The 23-year-old Penrith fullback has just eight Tests to his name and his promotion comes amid a host of injury absences and retirements and ahead of several more experienced options .

Maguire had no doubt about Watene-Zeleniak's ability to steer the Kiwis into a new era.

"Dallin lives the values we're looking for and embodies the new direction we're heading in with the Kiwis," Maguire said.

Watene-Zelezniak takes the captaincy duties from veteran forward Adam Blair, who led the Kiwis in last year's failed World Cup campaign under former coach David Kidwell.

Blair has been selected on the bench to take on the Kangaroos at Mt Smart on Saturday, ahead of the Kiwis' four-game tour of Great Britain over the next month.

Dally M Medallist Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and hooker Issac Luke were both unavailable through injury, while fellow veterans Simon Mannering, Ben Matulino and Russell Packer have retired from international football.

However Watene-Zeleniak was picked as skipper ahead of the more experienced Shaun Johnson, Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor, who are in the team.

Bromwich was stripped of the title last year after he and Proctor were caught allegedly snorting cocaine after the Kiwis' mid-year Test against Australia last year.

The pair will make their anticipated return against the Kangaroos after being named on Tuesday, along with debutants Joseph Manu and Brandon Smith.

Manu is one of three players from the Sydney Roosters side that claimed the NRL premiership over Melbourne two weeks ago.

Watene-Zelezniak had the choice to represent Tonga early in his career but chose to follow great-grandfather Steve, who was the first Maori player to captain New Zealand in 1936-37.

"I was really humbled when Madge (Maguire) offered me the chance to captain my country. It's a huge honour, especially following in my great grandfather's steps," he said.

A total of 10 players who played in this year's loss to England in Denver have retained their spots, with Johnson, Jordan Rapana and Kenny Bromwich making their international returns from injury.

Kiwis team:

1-Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 2-Ken Maumalo, 3-Esam Martsers, 4-Joseph Manu, 5-Jordan Rapana, 6-Shaun Johnson, 7-Kodi Nikorima, 8-Jesse Bromwich, 9-Brandon Smith, 10-Jared Waera-Hargreaves, 11-Kevin Procter, 12-Isaac Liu, 13-James Fisher-Harris

14-Kenny Bromwich, 15-Leeson Ah Mau, 16-Martin Taupau, 17-Adam Blair, 18-Peta Hiku, 19-Jahrome Hughes (two to be ommitted).