Reluctant front-rower Sam Thaiday has accepted the challenge to lead the way for Australia’s under-sized forward pack.
Desperate times call for different measures and Sam Thaiday has been quick to embrace his previously unwanted role as Australia’s front-row big bopper in the Four Nations.
A reluctant prop, Thaiday has shrugged off concerns the Kangaroos are under-sized and could be bullied by the bigger New Zealand pack in their tournament opener on Saturday night.
The World Cup champions are missing Matt Scott, James Tamou, Nate Myles and Paul Gallen – forcing the Brisbane Broncos veteran out of the preferred back-row position.
Thaiday joins Test rookie Aaron Woods in the front-row, while Corey Parker and Josh Papalii – who also have more experience as back-rowers – will rotate through the middle at Suncorp Stadium.
“We’re playing against some big forwards throughout this whole tournament so it will be a tough old task and we are going to have our hands full,” he said on Wednesday.
“While it’s not a traditional forward pack hopefully it can do a job.”
Five-eighth Daly Cherry-Evans admitted the forward battle would be crucial to Australia recording a record 17th straight win but didn’t believe the Kangaroos’ plight was any different to previous trans-Tasman clashes.
“I can’t remember Australia ever being a bigger pack than New Zealand to begin with so it’s not a worry, it’s not a headline of anyone’s thought process this week,” Cherry-Evans said.
Thaiday, who endured a season to forget last year when he wore No.10 for the Broncos, joked he would have to call Scott, Tamou and Myles to get some tips against the Kiwis, English and Samoans.
But the 29-year-old has been quick to shoulder the challenge since coach Tim Sheens revealed his plans immediately once they entered camp.
“I would much prefer to play second-row,” Thaiday said. “But that’s the job I’ve got to do for the Australian team.
“There’s lots of other front-rowers that would be more than happy to play this position so there’s no reason for me to whinge and carry on.
“The emblem on the heart (of the jersey) is what matters and the number and the name doesn’t really mean anything.”
Sheens has put a heavy emphasis on defence at the start of Australia’s preparations.
Thaiday said the lack of attacking combinations – especially with Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater missing – meant there was extra importance on keeping their line intact in the World Cup final rematch.
“The most important game is always the first one because you want to get off to a good start so the rest of the tournament looks after itself and combinations seem to fall into place,” he said.