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Kangaroos Should Win Four Nations Final But Kiwis Still A Chance

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Dave Griffith
Dave Griffith
Stephen Kearney

The Four Nations Rugby League Final between Australia and New Zealand at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane is shaping up as a classic encounter.

Kangaroo’s coach Tim Sheens has bolstered his side with the inclusion of Darren Lockyer and Billy Slater. Luke Lewis is back in too as Sheens tries to up the ante and stay one step ahead of a desperate Kiwis outfit.

The Aussie bench positions are still up for grabs as the Kangaroo’s try and keep the intensity up in their preparation.

Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney does not have the class of Lockyer or Slater to add to his side, but he had to make changes following the inept showing in Auckland.

Canberra Raiders back rower Bronson Harrison and Greg Eastwood come into the starting line-up and young prop Sam McKendry will probably get a bench spot. Frank Pritchard has not recovered in time from his knee injury.

The biggest surprise is that Sam Perrett has been retained on the right wing. New Zealands overall poor defensive effort was the biggest factor behind their loss at Eden Park. The decision making of Perrett was the next biggest factor. His option taking on defence was awful especially for a player of his class and experience.

It will be no surprise if Australia attack down his wing early in Brisbane just to see if the door has still been left open. If that fails they can just revert to type. Big, mobile forwards laying a solid platform for a slick backline that makes few errors and enjoys the benefit of Lockyers deft passes and kicks in the red zone.

The Kangaroos save their flash for the counter attack where Billy Slater is the best in the game. There is never any shortage of speed merchants in the Aussie backline looking to link up with Slater as he carves up the middle of the park.

New Zealand have enough quality in their side to defeat the Australians as long as they come to play and put sustained pressure on the Kangaroos.

The Kiwis are at their best when their backs are to the wall and little is expected of them. Last week at Eden Park they got talked up by the Aussies and the media as the strongest Kiwi team of all time. They obviously bought into the hype and played like they had turned up to celebrate their status rather than do the hard yards.

If Kearney can get them focussed on their game plan and hungry to knock the Aussies off then they are more than capable in this one-off game of scoring a famous victory.

This is an acid test for Kearney. Without the steady experienced hand of Wayne Bennett guiding him he is on his own this time. Kearney is more quietly spoken than New Zealands best game-day motivator Brian McClennan. It remains to be seen if he has the dressing room ‘presence’ to get his side where their heads need to be.

On paper this is an easy victory for Australia. The key is what frame of mind the Kiwis turn up in. If they play as a unit there is every chance they will win. Anything less than total team commitment and it will be another long night for Kiwi rugby league fans.

Stephen Kearney was on the money when he said “defence always has been and always will be about attitude”. Well Stephen what kind of attitude can you conjure up from the boys on Saturday night?

Brett Morris
Brent Tate
Willie Tonga
Lote Tuqiri
Darren Lockyer (c)
Cooper Cronk
Matthew Scott
Cameron Smith
David Shillington
Luke Lewis
Sam Thaiday
Paul Gallen

Bench (from) Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Petero Civoniceva, Greg Bird, Kurt Gidley, Nate Myles, Anthony Watmough, Darius Boyd

Lance Hohaia
Jason Nightingale
S. Kenny-Dowall
Junior Sa’u
Sam Perrett
Benji Marshall (c)
Nathan Fien
Greg Eastwood
Thomas Leuluai
Adam Blair
Bronson Harrison
Simon Mannering
Jeremy Smith

Bench (from): Issac Luke, Ben Matulino, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Sam McKendry, Sika Manu, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Lewis Brown.

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