RUGBY LEAGUE: Matt Gillett will finally make his eagerly-awaited Test debut against an unsung Kiwi side after his Brisbane and Queensland teammate Sam Thaiday succumbed to a calf injury yesterday.
Thaiday has played 23 Tests since 2006, but made the decision to pull out after a light run in Sydney yesterday to avoid the risk of further injuring his calf so close to the State of Origin series.
"I never thought this was going to happen, it gives me goosebumps just talking about it," Gillett said after being told he was in the team.
The back-rower said he rang his wife Skye and parents Peter and Debbie on the Sunshine Coast to give them the good news.
"I rang my wife and told her and rang my mum and dad who got a bit glassy eyed," he said.
"There will be plenty of emotion singing the national anthem. I can't wait."
Gillett's promotion into the Test side completes a remarkable rise for the 25 year-old whose life changed forever one cruel day in July, 2009, when told his close high school friend and Bribie Island Warrigul junior teammate Todd Parnell had died after being king hit at a party.
Gillett made his debut for Brisbane the following year from Brisbane Norths, with former Queensland and Australian halfback Mark Murray boldly predicting he would be Brisbane's best forward within two years and playing for Queensland and Australia soon after.
A strong, skilled, gifted, athletic utility, Gillett made his NRL debut for Brisbane in 2010 under then coach Ivan Henjak.
He went on to be named the club's rookie of the year, dedicating his first season to the memory of Parnell who had also been given a contract with the Broncos.
With Gillett moving into the starting line-up, Cowboys centre Brent Tate has been named 18th man.
Kiwi selectors, meanwhile, appear to have gone out on a limb naming an 18-man squad without
Sonny Bill Williams, not considered because of his plans to switch to rugby union next season, and proven Test performers Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.
Coach Stephen Kearney said he was happy to blood six newcomers as he looks to the next World Cup after the Kiwis were thrashed when Australia reclaimed their world No.1 ranking in the final in the UK late last year.
"We're more than happy to have these new players come into our program and be part of our future plans," Kearney said.
The New Zealand side includes just six members of the team that was thrashed 34-2 by Australia at Old Trafford in Manchester last November.
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