Australia will see its final game of rugby league for 2012 when the Australian Kangaroos battle New Zealand in Townsville on Saturday night. Despite being World Champions, the Kiwis will once again go in as firm underdogs.
History aside, Stephen Kearney’s men have a wonderful opportunity to take some momentum into 2013 and the World Cup later in the year in the United Kingdom.
The last time these teams met in Queensland, New Zealand shocked the Aussies 16-12 in the Four Nations Final at Suncorp Stadium.
The Black and Whites clinched the World Cup two years earlier at the same venue.
Recent history has not been nice to Australia north of the border.
But the only thing stopping a possible ambush at Dairy Farmers Stadium on the weekend might just be the Melbourne connection that handed the Storm the 2012 Telstra Premiership.
Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater will run out for yet another blockbuster. These guys seem to only deal in blockbusters such is their standing at the absolute pinnacle of rugby league brilliance.
Their combination with Ryan Hoffman is one that can’t be understated either. The big backrower has been impressive upon his return from England and will prove a dangerous weapon from the bench.
A grand final hangover won’t be a problem for the Australians and their Melbourne spine.
New Zealand will have to be stunning to upset the Kangaroos. But stunning can happen when you have stunning players.
Any side with the likes of Benji Marshall, Kieran Foran and Frank Pritchard needs to be respected. Throw in Krisnan Inu, Issac Luke and Sam Kasiano and you have a side that can challenge anyone on any day.
“You can judge a quality team by the players they’ve left out. I saw Jared Waerea-Hargreaves missed out and Adam Blair didn’t make the [original] squad either so when you’re leaving out that calibre of player it just goes to show the strength of their team. They’re going to be a tough opposition,’’ Robbie Farah told weststigers.com.au.
“We seemed to have had the wood over them in the past but the history doesn’t mean anything in these one-off games. If you don’t show up with that intensity and the will to play you can easily find yourselves losing the game.
“For us it’s a matter of not being complacent and really working hard. It’s pretty tough at the end of a long year and some boys haven’t played in a while as well. We’ve got to pick ourselves up again and make sure we’re ready to go.”
New Zealand has seven players coming off the Grand Final. Greg Eastwood, Kasiano and Inu are in the form of their lives and will be constant threats to Australia.
“I have only played against Benji once before. It’s always interesting and always tough. He’s the sort of player where you’re not too sure what he’s going to throw up at you and you’ve just got to expect anything,’’ Farah said.
“If you give him time and space he can really cut you apart. The Aussies have done a pretty decent job against him in the past, Tim (Sheens) knows him inside out as well so I’m sure we’ll have a game plan ready to try and limit Benji’s opportunities.”
The real story is Melbourne’s superstars though and how they handle one of the most dangerous New Zealand outfits in recent history.