Adam Blair's weight loss has changed his game.
The selection of the Kiwi team has, in general, drawn little criticism and, for me, it's a sign there is confidence these players will more than trouble the Australians.
The debate has been about who was left out and even I was surprised by a couple of omissions.
Adam Blair has just been brought into the side for Jeremy Smith, who is now out for a shoulder operation, and Blair can count himself lucky. I don't think he has had a very good season and at no stage did he play to his potential.
After leaving the Storm, he reduced his weight, under instruction from the Tigers, and was ineffective in his role. The weight loss reduced the impact he would normally have going into contact and I think Blair lost a little confidence.
His inclusion reduces the ability of this team to play Australia quickly. By that, I mean we won't be looking to beat the Aussies up with size; the selectors have chosen a pack of forwards who use footwork at the line with the ability to make metres.
The Storm pairing of Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor indicates that and, coupled with Simon Mannering, the team is mobile.
Sam Kasiano, Frank Pritchard and Ben Matulino have amazing footwork for big boys and their added size gives presence.
Unfortunately, I do not see that with Blair. Someone like Sika Manu, who has just finished the campaign with Melbourne Storm, would have been a better option, given his size and metre gains through the year. He also fits the bill where current form and match fitness were a priority when selecting this team; a major plus over Blair with less than a week to the fixture.
Blair will give what he can but he tends to back his way into the defensive line when attacking with ball in hand these days - and that's where he loses impact. He has the ability to stand and offload in the tackle, but so do the other players who have momentum at the line.
We are missing a little old-fashioned mongrel in the team and, despite riding a fine line, Jared Warea-Hargreaves will be missed. His coming off the bench injects enthusiasm - which is what a team playing Australia demands - and he has plenty.
He has also improved and increased his 'hard yards' game in a Roosters outfit displaying little confidence as the season wound down, so he may be a little unlucky not to be included.
Despite these small reservations, I have confidence the Kiwi team can beat Australia in Townsville. They will win if they deal with the obstacles in front of them; the heat, parochialism, media, history and doubt.
Which one will be the most difficult to deal with? Only the individual can answer and apply it within the team.By Hugh McGahan