NZ Kiwis v Tonga: Jesse Bromwich embraces captaincy redemption before new Kiwis era

Veteran prop Jesse Bromwich has been named NZ Kiwis captain against Mate Ma'a Tonga, as the squad prepares for the long-awaited test. 

The Melbourne Storm front-tower last led the Kiwis in 2017, but he was stripped of the captaincy, after being caught up in a drugs scandal.

Bromwich, 33, and a host of other stars are now ready to lead the team into a new era, as their two-year hiatus nears an end. 

Jesse Bromwich and Brandon Smith.
Jesse Bromwich and Brandon Smith. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

"It's a huge honour for myself and my family," Bromwich told Newshub. "I've obviously done this before, but I think I've grown as a person since then.

"I've been able to captain my club for the past two years and I've really learnt a lot. I'm really looking forward to the challenge this week. 

"It's been a long time since the Kiwis have been together." 

Others are also relishing the chance to restore the mana to the Kiwi jersey, with this year's World Cup in England fast approaching. 

"It's about taking the jersey to a place it hasn't been to in a while," added Storm hooker Brandon Smith. "I think that's what Madge [coach Michael Maguire] is looking to do."

The Kiwis' haka against Tonga.
The Kiwis' haka against Tonga. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

Maguire has combined a strong mix of youth and experience for this week's Tonga clash. 

Bromwich's experience will be invaluable to a team boasting some of the best young talent in the NRL and he insists the future is bright.    

"They should be really proud of what they've been able to do. I'm just excited to meet some of them.

"When I look at the team, it's one of the strongest Kiwis teams I've seen on paper."

But on the pitch, the side will be tested. Stars like Smith and Joseph Manu have only a handful of Kiwis games under their belts.

They're now keen to re-establish themselves in the black jersey to carry the Kiwis into a new era. 

"I'm super-excited to be playing hooker again," Smith continued. "We've got some good halves and a great spine. 

"Just representing this jersey means a lot to me in the first place. Doing it at home means even more."

"It's a big year for us," said Sydney Roosters centre Manu. "It's a World Cup year, there's no bigger campaign than that, so it's something to look forward to."

Join us at 5:40pm Saturday for live updates of the Kiwis v Tonga test