Leading into the Four Nations final last week, I was feeling optimistic about the Kiwis chances. There was a small chance they could spring a famous upset, but either way they would give the Kangaroos a contest.

But I started to have a few concerns after witnessing their captain's run the day before the match.

Captain's runs are never seen as that important - as they are a short session to experience the stadium and the field - but they do set a tone.

This one seemed a bit too casual. Nothing grave, but it just didn't look right.


Until then, everything had proceeded as normal. The Kiwis had held an open practice session on Wednesday in Wigan, and they trained with intensity and accuracy. It was bitterly cold, probably 5 or 6 degrees - with a bit of rain and wind thrown in - the kind of day you want to be anywhere but outside. But the team completed drills and a near full contact session with concentration and focus, sometimes sliding to touch down in despite icy cold puddles behind the try line.

The following day was a closed session at Melwood (Liverpool FC's training ground), where they also performed a haka for the players and had lunch with the footballing superstars.

After a day off, Saturday was the captain's run at Anfield. The Kangaroos were first that morning. As is standard, media were allowed to film the first 10 minutes then escorted back to the press room. When we returned about 40 minutes later the Australians were warming down, though Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk were still practicing 40/20 kicks on the smaller ground.

 Cameron Smith during the captain's run ahead of the Four Nations final. Photosport
Cameron Smith during the captain's run ahead of the Four Nations final. Photosport

When the Kiwis arrived later onto the field, they seemed remarkably relaxed. Many had phones, another had a selfie stick, as they took photos of themselves on the Anfield turf.

After returning to the media room post warm-up, we were called back out a short time later - at the time it only seemed like 20 or 25 minutes. At the time it seemed a little unusual to have such a short session, at your only time on the ground.

Players took more photos, and even the coaches got involved. A reporter asked captain Jesse Bromwich about "getting the balance between being relaxed and focused"- he said they had the right one.

To be fair the Kiwis are usually more informal and relaxed, compared to other teams, but this seemed to swing too far the other way, especially the day before New Zealand's most important game for two years.

The subsequent media session was also awkward. Coach David Kidwell didn't want to talk about his lineup, but also implied he was yet to make up his mind about who would replace Thomas Leuluai. Then both Bromwich and Adam Blair said they didn't know who was playing No6, and hoped they would be told that night, which seemed strange for the captain and a senior player.

But after the final Tohu Harris confirmed he was made aware "pretty early" in the week that he would be playing five eighth, which meant Bromwich and Blair had been placed in an awkward situation before the international press by toeing the team line.

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