The Kangaroos captain Darren Lockyer is set to be rested from Sunday night’s World Cup clash with Papua New Guinea, handing a Test debut to a player with one of the most famous surnames in Australian sport.
The Raiders five-eighth Terry Campese, the nephew of the Wallabies great David Campese, will join the Manly winger David Williams, secondrower Anthony Watmough and the St George Illawarra-bound centre Darius Boyd in making his Test debut as the Australian coach Ricky Stuart looks to give the players not needed against New Zealand and England a hit out before the finals.
Also set to play in Townsville is the Roosters veteran Craig Fitzgibbon, with the Storm stars Billy Slater and Greg Inglis, who each grabbed three tries in last Sunday night’s 52-4 demolition of England, likely to be rested with the props Steve Price and Petero Civoniceva.
It is unclear whether the injured halfback Johnathan Thurston will play after he yesterday travelled with Stuart to Brisbane for the funeral of his uncle, who was bashed to death in a park 10 days ago.
Stuart indicated after the win over England that the shoulder injury that sidelined Thurston from the match was unlikely to prevent him from playing next weekend, but it is known there are concerns about what mental state the halfback will be in.
Scott Prince, who deputised for Thurston in Melbourne, is a former Cowboys player and would enjoy a homecoming at Dairy Farmers Stadium in the Australian No. 7 jersey, which he now hopes to make his own.
Campese partnered Prince in the halves for the Prime Ministers XIII that played Papua New Guinea in September. He said yesterday that he was looking forward to his full Test debut against the Kumuls after a season in which he has gone from a part-time first-grader whose club withdrew a contract offer mid-year to Australian playmaker.
"It will be awesome to be named and just to represent the Australian jumper," Campese said. "It’s a massive dream come true really. I never thought this would happen, and if you go back to the start of the season … to now cap it off with a Test jumper would be fantastic. I will just try to follow on from how well the other guys have played in the last two games and just to improve, and if we can get a good win it will be awesome.
"These guys are the best in the world, and just to be around them and see how they prepare has been unreal, so if I get the opportunity to play with them it will be a great experience. Princey has been my roommate and we played together in PNG, so it would be good to run around with him again if that’s the way Ricky decides to go."
Williams has a similar story to tell after not even having made his NRL debut before he joined the Sea Eagles from Parramatta this season. Now he can boast of having earned a premiership ring and an Australian jersey.
"It’s been a dream season, and to play for Australia is the pinnacle of rugby league … so to do it in my first year would be something special and I can’t wait if it happens," Williams said. "Watching Billy and GI last night was pretty special. They’ve been doing that all year but to be around them … and it would be great if I got the chance to play with those guys."
However, it is believed unlikely that will happen in Townsville as Slater remained in Melbourne yesterday to spend time with his partner Nicole and their baby Tyla after becoming a father last week.
The Storm fullback is due to re-join the Australian camp tomorrow, and Stuart and Thurston will meet the remainder of the squad in Townsville today.
The Kumuls prop Makali Aizue faces a one-match ban and will miss the Test unless he can successfully challenge a contrary conduct charge for a grapple tackle on the Kiwis winger Sam Perrett on Saturday. Aizue was not charged for a second grapple tackle on Isaac Luke.
The Samoa prop Kylie Leuluai is also set to miss tomorrow night’s clash with Ireland at Parramatta Stadium after being charged with a grade one careless high tackle in last week’s 20-12 defeat of Tonga.