Petero Civoniceva is ready to do something he has never done before – play for his country feeling totally refreshed.
The Australian prop will enter the World Cup in peak physical fitness because for the first time ever he has had a break between NRL competition and Test duty.
Penrith’s late season demise might have cost the Panthers a place in the NRL finals, but it afforded 32-year-old Civoniceva his first break from football since he starting pulling on rep jumpers way back in 2001.
Over the past eight years Civoniceva has played 236 games – 182 NRL, 31 Tests and 23 Origins – at an average of 29.5 games per season.
Civoniceva has missed just one Origin game for Queensland since his debut, Origin II in 2002, and hasn’t missed a Test match for Australia since the 2004 Anzac Test in Newcastle.
The tireless front rower, while disappointed to miss the semis for the first time in 11-years of first grade, enjoyed having six weekends off from football before the World Cup.
“I feel in pretty good shape. As disappointing as it is not to feature in the finals I think it is the first time in my whole career I have had the chance to get refreshed,” said Civoniceva.
“But in saying that I’ve kept training and my fitness levels are great. I’m going in confident I can perform at that level.
“It was hard watching the semi-finals and of course you want to be there but at the same time it was a good chance to give my body a rest.”
Civoniceva’s incredible representative experience will be a key factor as the Kangaroos look to field a new-look forward pack for the World Cup.
With 31 Tests under his belt, Civoniceva could potentially hold more Test experience than the rest of Australia’s starting forward pack combined.
Backrower Craig Fitzgibbon (15) is the next most capped forward, followed by props Steve Price (11) and Brent Kite (10) and hooker Cameron Smith (eight).
Anthony Tupou (six) and Paul Gallen (one) have also played for their country while Josh Perry, Anthony Watmough, Glenn Stewart and Anthony Laffranchi are yet to debut.
Civoniceva says he is just as excited as the rookies heading into his first World Cup and intends to lead by example on the field.
“This was a goal of mine at the start of the year to be a part of this,” he said of the World Cup.
“The enthusiasm of all the debutants I suppose is great for us older guys and I think it’s going to be a great moment. This is the start of what is going to be a very tense month and a bit.
“I think there is always that bit of added responsibility on our shoulders (senior players) the fact that we have been here for quite some time.
“There are plenty of senior players within the group and it’s important that we set standards on the field about how we want to be regarded by other teams.”