Richie Barnett on league

Opinion and analysis from former Kiwis captain Richie Barnett

Richie Barnett: Rowdy crowd could be decider

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I know the Kiwis will look to play a controlled game and Johnson has really been working hard at guiding his team around the park, but I'd love to see him take on the line. Photo / Getty Images
I know the Kiwis will look to play a controlled game and Johnson has really been working hard at guiding his team around the park, but I'd love to see him take on the line. Photo / Getty Images

My abiding memory from the 1998 Anzac test was how incredibly vocal the crowd was. I've never been able to figure out what happened or why, but the crowd that night created the most intense atmosphere I'd ever experienced. It was the first time I'd ever heard our fans sing our national anthem. The noise throughout the game was just incredible. It really carried us. We did happen to have a pretty decent team that year, but there's no doubt the crowd was a factor.

That the Kiwis haven't won one of these mid-season tests since that match can be strongly linked to the fact that we haven't played one on home soil since.

Given the quality of the sides on display tonight, I'd be shocked if a massive crowd didn't roll up. This is a pretty rare chance to see the Kiwis on home soil and the quality of the individual match-ups alone is stunning. I'm talking Dave Taylor v Frank Pritchard, Benji Marshall v Jonathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk v Shaun Johnson, to name just three.

He might not have been there if Kieran Foran had been fit, but I'm hugely excited for Johnson. This brilliant young kid has got a great opportunity to test himself in the biggest arena to find out where he fits.

I know the Kiwis will look to play a controlled game and Johnson has really been working hard at guiding his team around the park, but I'd love to see him take on the line.

It's been said about this Kangaroos team a lot already, but it is so true that the established combinations from the Queensland and Melbourne teams give them a huge advantage. They are the best team I've ever seen in terms of coming together on limited preparation and executing their sets and set-plays.

The last time these teams met at Eden Park the Aussies got away to a fast start and that took the crowd out of the game. Rather than just trying to swallow the early pressure and stay in the game I'd love to see the Kiwis dictate terms. They have got the players to do it. Guys like Pritchard can turn games on their own in the NRL and it is time they did it at test level.

As a selector, picking this Kiwis side was easy. Most of the players picked themselves. They're in form, they've been playing consistently and they have plenty of experience.

They might never be able to match the Kangaroos' continuity but the bulk of the team has been part of the set-up for a while now. They are well capable of getting into a grind with Australia but their biggest strength is their unpredictability and that - along with a passionate crowd - will hopefully prove the difference.

- NZ Herald

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