Hugh McGahan is a former Kiwis player and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Hugh McGahan: Test was like two heavyweights sparring for 15 rounds

Kiwis prop Adam Blair chases Johnathan Thurston. Photo / Getty Images
Kiwis prop Adam Blair chases Johnathan Thurston. Photo / Getty Images

International league is supposed to be the pinnacle but it didn't look like it on Friday night.

The game was boring. Normally tests fly by but I found myself constantly looking at the clock. I likened it to two heavyweights going at it for 15 rounds but all they did was spar the whole time.

The Kiwis lacked punch and the Australians went through the motions. Neither played well and you could imagine Wayne Bennett sitting back with a smile on his face, convinced his England side can beat both in the Four Nations.

I can't question the guts and determination displayed by the Kiwis. They defended well and didn't lack for effort.

But they really missed Issac Luke. The Warriors hooker has been well down on form but he still would have been a better option at dummy half than Lewis Brown and Kenny Bromwich. The Kiwis lacked imagination, sending up one-off runners all night and leaving Shaun Johnson little room to be creative.

I can't work out why they didn't pick Luke. The explanations I've heard haven't enlightened me, leaving me wondering if it was for something other than form.

The selectors have been very loyal over the past few years but none of that loyalty was shown to Luke.

It doesn't make sense.

There's no doubt the Kiwis still have a good side when they have all their players available. Any team would have struggled without the likes of Kieran Foran, Simon Mannering, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Luke.

The Anzac test illustrated to me the need to develop depth in key positions. The Kiwis won't always have their best players available.

Someone like Kodi Nikorima, for instance, needs to start more regularly for the Broncos so he can learn what's required of a playmaker.

Foran and Johnson have forged a good partnership in the halves but they won't always be there and it's uncertain for how much longer Leuluai will be around.

It's the same at hooker. Without Luke, the Kiwis lack quality options. You need more than a makeshift hooker to beat Australia. Brown is not a first-grade hooker, let alone an international one.

Whether it was the Warriors or Kiwis who made the decision, it was a good call to not consider Manu Vatuvei, Ben Matulino and Bodene Thompson because of their off-field antics. Coach Stephen Kearney made the mistake of picking Sonny Bill Williams for the 2013 World Cup, choosing results over values, and he doesn't want the use of prescription drugs to be a factor again after what happened nearly three years ago.

The game was the first for Mal Meninga as Australia coach and it's clear how he's going to approach the job. He's even more loyal than Kearney, so and I can't see him making many changes ahead of next year's World Cup, even though many, including Phil Gould, are clamouring for some new blood.

He might have a number of players in their mid-30s but many of the ones in this group are the most influential players in the game.

- Herald on Sunday

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Hugh McGahan is a former Kiwis player and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Hugh Joseph McGahan MBE was a renowned rugby league player and coach who represented New Zealand in no less than 53 test matches, captaining 17 of them. Beginning his career in Auckland he later moved to Sydney where he played over 100 matches for the Roosters, finishing his career in 1991 as captain-coach of the eastern Sydney outfit. Accolades were never far away from the impressive Kiwi lock and in 1987 McGahan jointly won the prestigious Golden Boot Award, the first row forward at the time to win the award. Hugh McGahan’s international career was similarly impressive coming to the fore in 1982 after scoring a remarkable six tries for the Kiwis against Papua New Guinea in Auckland. Hugh Mcgahan ended his career with distinguished honours as he was awarded the Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to rugby and later inducted into the NZRL Legends of League. He continues to write sports columns for the New Zealand Herald.

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