Richie Barnett on league

Opinion and analysis from former Kiwis captain Richie Barnett

Richie Barnett: Mastering the kicking game key to getting an advantage

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Shaun Johnson is under pressure to deliver the goods.  Photo / Brett Phibbs
Shaun Johnson is under pressure to deliver the goods. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The Kiwis must get their kicking game right against Australia in Canberra tonight.

I know this will hardly come as a shock to league followers, who hear about the kicking game every week in the NRL. But it is the area which has cost us dearly in the past two Anzac tests, and we will be up against one of the best kicking units the game has seen, especially with Cameron Smith's mastery of the craft out of dummy half.

The pressure is on Shaun Johnson and Kieran Foran in particular - and Issac Luke to a lesser degree - to deliver the goods, and for the chasing line to ensure that any poor kicks are turned into reasonably good ones.

It's important to envisage the shape of each set of tackles so everyone is on the same page when it comes to the fifth-tackle kick.

I know that Benji Marshall was disappointed in his own kicking game in the past two Anzac encounters - if we get this right then we have the capabilities to shock Australia.

This Kiwi side has a tremendous prop rotation and damaging edge runners, but we need to be in the right position to deliver the blows.

Defensively, we will have to muscle up particularly well on the right-hand side where I expect Greg Bird and probably Paul Gallen will launch themselves towards Johnson, who can struggle in the defensive department.

That is why the Kiwis will have Simon Mannering and Kevin Proctor on that side of the field.

On the subject of the props, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves' form at the Roosters is a major boost for the Kiwis and Steve Kearney's assistant coach Tony Iro has played his part there.

What became obvious last year was just how much Waerea-Hargreaves wanted to play for the Kiwis when he was overlooked. He made it clear in the papers how disappointed he was.

He had been conceding one or two penalties per game and I know Tony has worked hard at getting him to reduce the penalties and improve his workrate.

It is a testament to Jared's great attitude that he is playing the best football of his career. And he is the sort of test-type player we need, who will bring a bit of aggro to the contest.

Richie Barnett is a Kiwi selector

- NZ Herald

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