They are bizarrely without two of the best forwards going around today in Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Sonny Bill Williams. On top of that they have been given little hope of causing a boilover this Friday night at Allianz Stadium. But don’t tell that to this Kiwi forward pack who have one almighty point to prove against the World Cup-winning Australians.
This week has been dominated by the absence of Waerea-Hargreaves who was overlooked by selectors and coach Stephen Kearney despite the fact that he is one of the premier props in the NRL and hasn’t even reached the peak of his powers.
Then there is Williams, who recently made himself unavailable for the match after he, Waerea-Hargreaves and others were implicated in a Stilnox scandal that had officials fuming.
The result as always is that the fans are the ones who lose out.
Allianz Stadium will be lucky to be half full and who can blame the fans for wanting to see the New Zealanders at full strength?
Instead of ‘blooding’ new talent in one of the big representative games of the year, perhaps they could have put more time and effort into development through the other 51 weeks of the year.
Whatever happened at the World Cup should have been sorted there and then. For a nation that hasn’t won an Anzac test since 1998, it is hard to believe they are in any place to hand the Aussies a walkthrough just so they can play a bunch of youngsters who may or may not end up being stars of the NRL.
But all is not lost for those loyal fans heading to Moore Park on Friday, for there is still a game of footy to be played.
There might be no Kieran Foran, Williams, Waerea-Hargreaves, Issac Luke or even Benji Marshall who we’ve become accustomed to seeing in the black and white over the years – but if you like a knock ’em down forward battle then look no further.
It may not get New Zealand the result they’re looking for, but it’s worth turning the television on, even if it’s to witness the star-studded.
In one corner is the green and gold engine room of Australia. A pack full of experience boasting Matt Scott, Nate Myles, Paul Gallen, Greg Bird, James Tamou and Corey Parker mixed in with a touch of youth in Boyd Cordner and Matt Gillett.
They’re a skilful lot, confident enough in their own ability; they can outmuscle and outplay anyone.
In the other corner is the rank underdog given about as much chance as Apollo Creed against Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. They have a simple job and that’s to pummel the Australians. Most are expecting a fiery opening stanza.
What the omission of Waerea-Hargreaves has done is put a fire beneath the lucky ones that have been picked, and if anything Kearney has selected a pack already ripping and tearing for their respective clubs.
And on top of that, they all have a point to prove individually.
Men like Sam Moa and Martin Taupau.
Both Moa and Taupau have been written off in the past, but both have found new clubs and more than proved their worth.
Moa played one solitary game for Cronulla in 2008 before shifting over to England where he exploded onto the scene with Hull FC, spending four impressive seasons in the Super League. When he returned to Australia for the Sydney Roosters, nobody really knew who he was. Now he is the cornerstone of the premiership-winning Roosters’ side.
Taupau was a young prop going places after representing the Australian Schoolboys and then the Junior Kiwis. But he simply couldn’t get it going at Canterbury and spent four years languishing in the lower grades. A switch to the Wests Tigers has made all the difference and he has become an intimidating figure coming off the bench for the joint venture club.
Then there is Tohu Harris, making his first appearance for his country since being left out of the World Cup side for the incoming SBW. Adam Blair has been trashed for his performances at the Tigers ever since leaving Melbourne. Ben Henry gets to prove he can play hooker on the big stage and lastly, bolter Saliva Havili gets a chance to put himself on the map with a big outing.
Melbourne pair Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor also have a chance of cementing their places in the New Zealand side long term with Proctor stepping out onto what could be his new home in 2015 – if reports are true and he signs with the Roosters.
The battle upfront may not be enough to get you to the game but it’s definitely worth watching.
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