Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

League: Kiwis outsiders, but Kearney confident

Steve Kearney is confident the Kiwi team will put up a good fight against red-hot favourites, the Kangaroos.Photo / File
Steve Kearney is confident the Kiwi team will put up a good fight against red-hot favourites, the Kangaroos.Photo / File

Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney knows his side are once again rank outsiders in tonight's test, but is confident his team can snap a decade long hex.

The last time New Zealand beat Australia in a one off test match was in 2003, with a 30-16 victory at North Harbour stadium.

Since then many of the trans-Tasman contests have been close, and getting closer, though there has also been some one sided affairs (42-6 in Newcastle last year, 38-10 in Brisbane in 2009 and 58-0 in Wellington in 2007).

Once again Australia go into tonight's match as red hot favourites. Apart from the famed Queensland quartet of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater, they also have two of the NRL's form props in Matt Scott and James Tamou and electric pace across their backline.

Throw in the non stop work rate of Paul Gallen, the niggle of Nate Myles and Greg Bird and the sheer size of Tony Williams and they are a truly fearsome proposition.

"You could look across their whole team and scratch your head with fright saying 'Gee, they have got this, they'll got that'," conceded Kearney, "but I'm super confident and comfortable with what we have got in our group and what we can do. We just have to make sure we get an equal share of possession and if we do that we are going to trouble any side."

As a coach Kearney has tasted victory twice before against Australia - both within tournament formats at the 2008 World Cup and the 2010 Four Nations - but believes this current crop have the goods to do it again.

"Yes, 100 per cent [we can win]," said Kearney.

"The preparation has been great this week and I'm really confident. If we play to our gameplan and our capilities then we give ourselves an opportunity."

There are certainly reasons for optimism among Kiwi supporters. Their team is full of players in form, many drawn from the Storm and Bulldogs, who contested the grand final. On paper the pack looks formidable, with an ideal blend of power and skill and several players who can create havoc through the middle.

From his statements during the week captain Benji Marshall is on a mission to right the wrongs of the past couple of years while fellow half Kieran Foran is desperate to bring his club form to the international stage and claim his first victory over the Kangaroos.

The Kiwis might have problems out wide; their back five is relatively inexperienced and none possess the quicksilver pace of the Morris twins, Slater or Greg Inglis. But Krisnan Inu and Sam Perrett have combined well for the Bulldogs in 2012 while Josh Hoffman showed immense promise in the Anzac test earlier this year.

"I think we've picked a squad that can do them," said Kieran Foran.

"The key for us is keeping them down their end of the field. If we are making good metres and we can get a good kick at the end of the set and make them bring it out of yardage all game it nullifies players like Thurston and Slater."

"That's the way to shut them down - don't give them repeat sets on your line cause sooner or later they are good enough players to make you pay."

- Herald on Sunday

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