This Sunday – at the unlikely venue of Mile High Stadium in Denver – Aranui Eagles junior Jamayne Isaako is set to join the ranks of Canterbury products to pull on the Kiwis jumper. 

Flashback Friday this week relives the 2011 midyear trans-Tasman Test, when Christchurch-born duo Lewis Brown and Matt Duffie made their Kiwi debuts together at Skilled Stadium on the Gold Coast in one of the most significant days in Canterbury Rugby League’s recent history on the international stage.

Versatile Riccarton Knights product Brown had two seasons with the New Zealand Warriors under his belt before earning a maiden Test call-up, while Kaiapoi (now Northern) Bulldogs junior Duffie’s record of 14 tries in just 20 NRL appearances for the Melbourne Storm saw him drafted into the Kiwis line-up on the wing.

The Kangaroos raced out to a 10-0 lead, before the 24-year-old Brown – coming off the bench in the No.18 jumper – made a sizzling break and found support in the 20-year-old Duffie, who dived over out wide in a proud moment for the Canterbury Rugby League fraternity.

Second-half tries to Billy Slater and Jamal Idris propelled Australia to a 20-10 victory, but the result took only a little shine off a career highlight for the lads from the South Island. 

Brown, a valuable performer at centre, backrow or hooker, scored an unforgettable match-sealing try against Duffie’s Storm to propel the Warriors into the grand final later that season, before following former coach Ivan Cleary to Penrith in 2013.

He won a Kiwis re-call for the 2014 Four Nations and played a starring role off the bench, and extended his Test tally to 15 appearances as a regular fixture in New Zealand’s 2015-16 line-ups. The veteran of 198 NRL games, who linked with Manly in 2016, fell out of favour with Kiwis selectors last year, however. 

Duffie, the Bulldogs’ first New Zealand Test representative, endured a luckless run after his sole Test appearance, struck down by shoulder and knee injuries which prevented him from pushing for another Kiwis call-up. 

But after more than two years out of the NRL, Duffie made an impressive comeback at the back-end of 2015 to attract the interest of Super Rugby’s Blues, where he has spent the last two seasons after leaving behind a record of 37 tries in 62 first-grade games with the Storm. He was called into the All Blacks’ touring squad at the end of 2017 and debuted in a win over the Barbarians at Twickenham but he is yet to play in a Test match.

Despite the Duffie and Brown’s contrasting journeys, the day they simultaneously debuted for New Zealand in 2011 remains a watershed occasion for the Knights and Bulldogs clubs – and the Aranui Eagles’ members chests are sure to sure to swell with similar pride when Isaako runs out for the Kiwis for the first time against England. 

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