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3 days ago
Kiwis coach Daniel Anderson remains adamant the future of New Zealand rugby league is looking rosy after unearthing two genuine test stars in Benji Marshall and Jerome Ropati.
Marshall and Ropati, both 20, played starring roles for the Kiwis in their side's 32-16 loss to Australia in a game that signalled the return of international football.
Ropati scored two tries, including an 85 metre runaway, coped with the high ball and defended solidly while Marshall was a constant thorn in the Kangaroos' defensive line.
Anderson praised Ropati's effort at fullback but hinted he could be an even better prospect at his natural position five-eighth.
"The bloke at the back is pretty handy," Anderson said.
"He's a better number six than number one. He handled the high ball, made some big tackles, scored two tries. He's not far away from being a world class player."
The pair could find themselves in the halves for this year's Tri-Nations campaign in England after Marshall survived his baptism of fire at Lang Park.
"Everyone pointed out that there would be plenty of traffic, and there was plenty of traffic thrown at him, and he didn't shirk it once," he said.
"He handled the ball a lot of times, he created opportunities and he was unlucky not to get a try."
Despite Anderson's praise, Marshall believed he had a lot of areas to improve in particularly communication and direction.
"I was getting a bit lost at times," Marshall said.
"I like the responsibly of having other people relying on me and I tried to produce as best I could tonight but at times I thought I didn't do as well as I could have but it's a learning curve."
Ropati said it was important for the Kiwis to start building combinations, particularly in the halves which has been a trouble spot over the past few years.
"If we can build up, especially in the halves because we've been changing them around a fair bit, combinations then that'll serve us well down the track," he said.
New Zealand skipper Reuben Wiki said his NRL teammate Price was "awesome".
"I thought he was a centre at one stage," quipped his Warriors teammate after the game.
A hamstring twinge may have cost Price a precious test try in the second half, but he still managed to slip a pass to former Bulldogs teammate Willie Tonga for a try.
Price also required treatment to a thumb injury after the game.
But to the media's amusement it was for an old gardening injury, not a legacy from a very tough match.
"I did it a few weeks ago cutting up some branches," laughed Price.
Price, who is almost too nice to be a front rower, gave one of his former Bulldogs teammates Jamaal Lolesi a verballing at one stage but later explained it was all in good fun.
"He had me in a headlock and he started laughing at me because it wasn't part of me to be like that," said Price.
"It was pretty funny really."
It was a special night for Price with his wife, his mum and dad and sister all in the big crowd.
"It was great playing here, I think I've lost one game here out of seven," he said.