League: Mr Versatile wants to nail down one position

By Michael Brown

Utility value can be an asset but it can also be a curse and Ben Henry wants to cement a starting spot in one position. Photo / Getty Images.
Utility value can be an asset but it can also be a curse and Ben Henry wants to cement a starting spot in one position. Photo / Getty Images.

Utility value can be an asset but it can also be a curse and Ben Henry wants to cement a starting spot in one position.

The Warriors utility put in a credible shift in his test debut against Australia on Friday night playing in the unfamiliar position of hooker. He was steady, assured and defensively strong and his numbers back it up.

He touched the ball 45 times in 41 minutes and ran for 30m and made one tackle break. He also made 29 tackles and didn't miss one and Warriors teammate Siliva Havili was the perfect foil providing spark off the bench.

"I just wanted to do the fundamentals,'' Henry said. "Work from the inside, tackle like a hooker and work with the halves.

"By the time the test rolled around I felt pretty comfortable. I still had to remind myself I was playing hooker but it was good.

"You look up and you see superstars of the game - Nate Myles, Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Greg Inglis. They are all in one team. It's kind of overwhelming, but Mooks (coach Stephen Kearney) said all week they're just 13 guys and you just have to go out and wear your heart on your sleeve.''

Henry was a surprise selection at hooker but Kearney has few alternatives given the injuries to Issac Luke, Thomas Leuluai and Elijah Taylor and coaches have long recognised Henry's utility value.

He has played everywhere in the forward pack except prop in his short professional career as well as centre and he also played a NSW Cup game at five-eighth.

That versatility is both a blessing and a curse. It can make a player indispensable but it also make it difficult for them to really excel in one position and Henry wants to be a second-rower.

"I guess it adds value to what I can do but I want to cement a spot in whatever team I play,'' Henry said. "It's up to the coaches to decide. I'm hoping my versatility also gives me a spot.''

Kearney will face an interesting dilemma ahead of the Four Nations at the end of the year when a number of those who missed Friday's 30-18 defeat to the Kangaroos should be back playing. But their places will come under pressure from those who performed so well in the Anzac test.

Kearney can now start planning for the Four Nations and the identity of the fourth side is now known after Samoa beat Fiji 32-16 in Saturday night's playoff.

Krisnan Inu, who was omitted from the Kiwis side for the Anzac test after last year making the World Cup squad, was a standout for Samoa but the match also saw 38-year-old former Australia prop Petero Civinoceva come out of retirement to play his 51st test and sixth for Fiji.

Samoa beat Fiji for just the second time in seven games and it also went some way to making up for their defeat to Fiji in last year's World Cup quarter-finals.

The Kiwis kick off their Four Nations campaign against Australia in Brisbane on October 25 before taking on Samoa in Whangarei and England in Dunedin. The final will be played in Wellington on November 15.

- APNZ

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