Big Joe still waiting for that

Joe Vagana is hoping newly appointed Kiwis coach Brian McClennan will bring an end to his five-year international exile.

Vagana, 30, made the last of his 25 test appearances for the Kiwis in the 2000 World Cup final loss to the Kangaroos.

The big prop has since been overlooked by a succession of Kiwis coaches after quitting New Zealand in anger over the refusal of New Zealand Warriors management to honour the final three years of his contract at the National Rugby League franchise.

"It has been disappointing not getting in since I left," said Vagana, who has appeared in four successive Super League grand finals for British club Bradford Bulls.

"As a child you always grow up wanting to put on the black jersey, whether it be for the Kiwis or the All Blacks.

"It has always been an honour for me to put on the black jersey and I still feel I have got a bit to offer.

"If I get in I'll be honoured but if I miss out, so be it. But hopefully if you miss out it's not for political reasons; it's because you are not playing as well as the other people in your position."

Being persistently overlooked had been hard to swallow, Vagana said.

"It has hurt. I've always prided myself on getting into the Kiwis.

"When you make it for so many years and you think you are still playing good enough, not being selected for going on five years is a bit disheartening.

"But you can't do much about it. All you can do is carry on playing the best you can and try to look on the positive side."

Vagana's omission has baffled many close to the game in Britain, including his club coach Brian Noble, who will take charge of Great Britain for the upcoming Tri-Nations series, which New Zealand open by playing Australia in Sydney on October 15.

"He's been the best go-forward front rower in this competition since he's been here," Noble said.

"It is a surprise that he doesn't get selected. He must have upset somebody over there.

"I've got the highest regard for the New Zealand front rowers but I'm sure Joe would complement them all. I'm just glad we don't have to deal with him.

"His form is as good as it's ever been. His go-forward is there for everybody to see. People know Joe's worth.

"He is a very efficient, smart player and he's got good skills. So, long may it continue that he doesn't get picked for New Zealand."

Although he, too, believes he is still playing at his peak, Vagana has long since given up holding his breath waiting for a recall.

"I'm no spring chicken and there is a lot of great talent through on the Kiwis scene but I still think I'm playing good enough football to get in.

"That's just my personal point of view; it is up to the selectors. I'm always available."