Graham Lowe: Kiwis need to rediscover own formula

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Australia lived up to their reputation last Friday night in Brisbane and gave the Kiwis a lesson on how to win an Anzac test match.

The question now is what can be done to change what is becoming an embarrassment to the game here.

Anyone thinking that winning one Anzac test every 10 years is okay should quite frankly give themselves an uppercut. It is not good enough and somehow an answer must be found. If not, let's just call off the jam.

I agree it is a very difficult problem for the NZRL to deal with. But, at present, the Kiwis are trying to beat the Kangaroos at their own game and in the process New Zealand has lost its own playing style and identity in favour of trying to copy how Australia do it. Even China couldn't copy that.

Great Britain are a good example of throwing their own style of game away in favour of copying Australian methods - what was once a proud international heritage is now a shambles of under-achievement.

International games which are often one-off fixtures require a totally different method of preparation to the NRL or Super League club fixtures.

The Warriors do a great job flying the flag here and the NRL is a winner.

But New Zealand rugby league needs to be able to stand on its own two feet consistently against Australia if true credibility is to be gained.

The Kiwis won the World Cup last year and that is terrific, but Friday night illustrated exactly where New Zealand really sits internationally.

The Anzac test results have reminded me of the dilemma in which Queensland used to find themselves during their annual interstate clashes with New South Wales.

Traditionally the Queenslanders started each contest with a hiss and a roar but were never a match for their New South Wales counterparts. Unbelievably, prior to 1980 Queensland had only won four of their previous 58 games played against the men in blue.

And the last interstate game before the Origin series started was played at Leichardt Oval in Sydney in front of a meagre crowd of around 1000 spectators.

But at a time when it seemed impossible to break the grip held by New South Wales, the game in Queensland (and Australia) was given a new breath of life.

In the first State of Origin game in 1980, seven players were recalled home from their Sydney clubs to don the Maroon jersey. The experience of these seven players combined with the balance of locals from Queensland club football produced a stunning 20-10 victory. The rest, as they say is history.

Years later I can see a similar deadlock held firmly by the Kangaroos in Anzac tests.

Maybe it is worth considering local New Zealand club players once more for Kiwi selection.

At present players in local club football are not considered because they are not up to NRL standard - that goes for coaches as well.

There is a huge difference in standards and I'm not arguing that.

But until locals are given a chance at becoming a Kiwi we can only guess at what may happen. And they certainly wouldn't do any worse than some of their NRL counterparts who have been picked for the Kiwis at different times.

There's a possibility that a few local players running alongside some of the NRL stars could provide the magic that seems to have disappeared from our style of Kiwi football.

In fact these one-off games with limited build-ups would suit the non-NRL players perfectly. They still know how to perform well each weekend for their clubs even after spending Saturday mornings at work.

The thought of Origin football was once considered laughable but the alternative was extinction.

I happen to believe in the game in New Zealand. If local players are never considered for the Kiwis, why are we playing the game here?

Extinction is not an alternative to consider.

It will be worth the trip to Mt Smart on Sunday just to see Cowboys halfback Johnathon Thurston up against the Warriors' Stacey Jones. The prospect is mouth-watering.

Thurston is the best halfback on the planet at the moment, but it wasn't too long ago many thought of Jones in the same way.

How Thurston backed up his outstanding game in Brisbane against the Kiwis last Friday night with a brilliant performance on Saturday night against the Dragons in Townsville was remarkable.

He is a great player and on Sunday he is up against another player made from a similar mould.

Both these halfbacks use the dummy pass as good as anyone has ever used it and can each produce a sidestep in the opponents' red zone that leaves the defence grabbing at fresh air.

And there are many similarities between the Cowboys and the Warriors clubs. They do, at times, play a brand of football that is breathtaking and both have a never-say-die mentality.

And also, like the Warriors the Cowboys are not far from winning their first premiership.

League in North Queensland is a religion only matched by Wigan in the UK's north-west, so these Cowboys know what it is like to play with expectations on their back.

And this is what the Warriors are also starting to come to grips with. The Mount Smart fans understand the game and know it is only a matter of time before a day of glory at the NRL grand final.

It won't be easy on either the fans or the players this weekend because there is little between the two teams.

Mat Bowen at fullback for the Cowboys is a player who is capable of winning the game for them and the Warriors will invite danger if their kicking game is not in order.

The Cowboys are a very well-balanced side and I think they have an edge in the backs on Sunday.

But I also like the way the Warriors are now keeping themselves alive in each contest.

This would be a hard game for the Warriors to win in Townsville and I think it will be just as hard for the Cowboys to win here.

- NZ Herald

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