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Fien Back In Black - At Last

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

24 OCTOBER 2008 - He offers a cheery "kia ora" to journalists. His conversation is dotted with "sweet as" and even an occasional "bro". It's only the Queensland twang that's the giveaway.

After big false start two years ago, a proud Nathan Fien will don the black No 9 jersey as a fully fledged Kiwi in their World Cup opener against his country of birth here on Sunday night.

He's now qualified under international rules, after four years as an Auckland resident with his Australian wife Belinda and three children, and playing the best football of his life at age 29.

The events of 2006 when his Kiwis jersey was snatched away after two Tri-Nations tests , thanks to a New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) blunder which led to the 'Grannygate' saga, are furthest from his mind.

"To be honest I don't really care what people think,'' Fien told NZPA.

"The boys are really welcoming in the camp and there definitely is a brotherhood within the side. The coaching staff see I can offer something to the side and that's why I'm here.

"I'll wear the jersey really proudly and I'll do my best no matter what position it's in. That's been my philosophy since the s..t hit the fan a few years ago, just try to get on with playing footy which is what I do best."

Fien previously recalled the huge stress of 2006 when his family in Australia received prank calls and were hounded by reporters at their homes when the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) found the NZRL claimed eligibility through his New Zealand-born great-grandmother, which was a generation too far.

Then this year his career was dealt another setback when Warriors coach Ivan Cleary told him he wasn't required past 2009. It was a serious mid-season jolt, so Fien gritted his teeth and went out to prove a point and play his way into the Kiwis' World Cup side.

"It was definitely my most consistent season. There were a few things going on at the Warriors that might have upset me a little bit in the past, but I put it at the back of my mind and concentrated on being as consistent as possible, week in, week out. I'm pretty competitive so I'll generally always back myself."

His excitement is clear about running onto the Sydney Football Stadium but he's also intent on playing down the Kiwis' chances. He can't wait to perform the haka again and isn't expecting any grief from the Kangaroos, akin to the disrespect shown by Willie Mason to Brent Webb two years ago.

" I'm just really happy to be involved and I can't wait to get out there. For the All Golds we had to learn a new (haka) and that was all sweet. I'm very comfortable doing it, it's great to be a part of. It definitely gets the blood pumping.

"But Australia are the world champions and there's no weaknesses right across the park. They're so strong. We're up against it but we're definitely looking forward to the challenge."

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