PNG Test a genuine Four Nations trial: Meninga
Prime Minister's XIII coach Mal Meninga says he's thrilled to see players buying into his new direction for the national side leading into this weekend's clash against Papua New Guinea.
The annual fixture has been plagued in recent years by players pulling out with injuries, but with a host of positions up for grabs for next month's Test against New Zealand, as well as the end-of-season Four Nations tour, competition for places in the Australian side is at an all-time high.
Speaking at Allianz Stadium following a team meeting, Meninga said he was pleased to see that the star-studded squad had bought into his new philosophies on the international game.
"They see the importance of putting the green and gold jersey on," he said.
"This is a genuine trial for the guys for Four Nations selection, but also for the World Cup next year. It's very pleasing to see them all available.
"It shows credibility. This is the strongest PM's XIII team we've taken to PNG. I think I toured in '91 and I think this is the strongest team in 25 years going up there.
"From an experience point of view, if they go with the right attitude to enjoy their profile up there and play well, they'll come back with happy memories."
Rabbitohs fullback Greg Inglis – who will skipper the side on Saturday – echoed Meninga's sentiments, telling media that a strong performance against the Kumuls could earn someone a jersey at next year's World Cup.
"The boys are going to put their best foot forward, and Mal wants that pride in the jersey again," Inglis said.
"He wants to make this game very important and this game for the majority of boys is a trial game to potentially [book a spot in the squad] for the end of the year and towards next year with the Anzac Test and the World Cup."
That certainly rings true for Josh Dugan who wants to take full advantage of his opportunity in Port Moresby to solidify his spot in the Kangaroos side.
The 26-year-old has played in the past two Anzac Tests for the national team and would love nothing more than to retain his spot for the tour to the UK in October.
With players like Will Chambers, Jack Bird and Joey Leilua still in the finals, Dugan has first crack at right centre and will be keen to rekindle the blossoming combination he and former Raiders teammate Blake Ferguson started in the 16-0 win over the Kiwis in April.
"I think it's a genuine trial for the Four Nations tour and I think that's the way we'll all treat it," the Dragons custodian said.
"I think any time you represent your country it's something to be proud of and something very humbling. You don't want to let anybody down, especially your teammates and country.
"There's a tour at the end of the year and everyone wants to put their hand up for that. I think this is the first stepping stone to get there and the first opportunity. It is a stacked side but definitely something we won't be taking lightly.
"Hopefully it'll be my first tour and I'm really looking forward to going out there next week and hopefully having a good game."