His Kangaroos debut lasted just 17 minutes but Luke Keary is ready to leave an indelible mark on the international stage, according to coach Mal Meninga.
Australia will look to bounce back from a surprise two-point defeat to New Zealand last week when they meet Tonga for the first time on Saturday.
And Keary will be a certain starter after recovering from a concussion and training strongly in Friday’s captain’s run in Auckland.
Meninga said the Sydney Roosters five-eighth had shown leadership qualities during preparations despite being the most inexperienced player in the team.
“He’s obviously disappointed he didn’t finish the game last week,” Meninga said.
“He’s been all about making sure that he’s fit and healthy and that’s really important. At training he’s been terrific. He’s a great leader, to be honest with you.
“He’s played in two premierships already, one with Souths and the Roosters. Obviously there’s something special about him.
“I’m really confident in the footy team and he’s going to make a terrific contribution tomorrow night for us.”
The pressure is on the Kangaroos to avoid back-to-back defeats in the same calendar year for the first time since 1978.
Keary’s inclusion bolsters a left edge that includes premiership-winning Roosters teammates in captain Boyd Cordner and centre Latrell Mitchell.
“He’s an unreal player. He’s proven that all year,” Cordner said.
“Any game where you lose your half, it really hurts, especially early on. But he’s a dynamic player and he’s been picked in this Australian team for a reason.
“I think he’s showed that in his short time that he was on the field against New Zealand. We’ll be very glad to have him back.”
While Meninga has welcomed the return of the Roosters combination, the team’s emphasis this week has been improving their ball handling.
The Kangaroos shot themselves in the foot with a 73 per cent completion rate against the Kiwis to fall behind by 14 points with 10 minutes to go.
Utility Ben Hunt will return to the bench as an impact player.
“Benny was really good, particularly defensively, and we had to do a lot of defence last week,” Meninga said.
“Our intention is to hold on to the ball a bit more this time around and get our fair share of possession.”