The curtain-raiser to last Saturday night’s rugby league Test match in front of more than 26,000 fans in Dairy Farmers Stadium in Townsville was a fiery clash between the Junior Kangaroos and Junior Kiwis — and Springwood’s Tom Eisenhuth was in the thick of it.
The 2012 Panthers Toyota Cup centre and 2010 NSW under-18s representative was selected as a useful bench player for Australia in the under-20s international and played his part in the Junior Kangaroos’ relatively easy 48-16 win.
But the tension was high even before kick-off when the Australians advanced as the New Zealand players began doing the haka after the national anthems were played and late in the second half a scuffle developed between the two teams and punches were thrown.
In between the Aussies scored nine tries to the Kiwis’ four and had too much class, while Eisenhuth got some valuable game time for his country.
Eisenhuth told the Gazette the junior Test match was a memorable one.
“It is a really big honour when you get to play for your country,” he said.
“And I think making my first grade debut game for Penrith (on August 19 this year) helped me prepare for this Test, as I didn’t think I’d feel as nervous as I did at the start of that game (against the Warriors in Auckland).
“I think I was picked (on the Australian bench) because I’d played good, consistent footy in Toyota Cup throughout the year for Penrith and the fact that I can play as a centre or slot into the second row.
“Although we got knocked out in the finals of the Toyota Cup, I still think we had a pretty good year and the team was a young one that was building up.”
Because Eisenhuth recently turned 20 he will play in the NSW Cup competition for the Windsor Wolves next year, but playing more first grade games for Penrith is a strong motivator.
“That’s still one of my main goals this year, to get more first grade experience with Penrith,” Eisenhuth said.