By Peter Jessup
SYDNEY - The bad behaviour of Kangaroo squad members continued to dominate the Anzac test build-up yesterday, allowing the Kiwis to focus on setting an ambush for the unsettled Australians.
The Kiwis had their first opposed training sesssion of the week, against the combined Sydney Metropolitan Cup side who will play in the curtainraiser.
It gave coach Frank Endacott the chance to try some defensive patterns, but afterwards he said he did not believe they needed a lot of work in that area because everyone was still on the job after last season's England tour.
There was plenty of yap on the field as they organised and plenty of high-spirited banter.
Captain Jarrod McCracken dismissed suggestions that the Kiwis might be offended by the apparent arrogance of the Australians in going out for a major drinking session so close to the test.
"That's just their tradition," he said.
Endacott joked that the lead-up to Craig Gower's dismissal from the team for ill-discipline "must have been a good team bonding session. I hope they have another on Friday afternoon."
Turning serious, he said he was disappointed for the image of the game at a time when it was trying to re-enlist those fans who deserted during the Super League war.
"I think it's time that certain individuals, both players and management, really started thinking about the image of the sport for the future."
Endacott said his team were disciplined off the field, adding that he would be surprised if any of his players became involved in public drunken behaviour.
"I would say the discipline in this side is nothing short of 100 per cent. They went out for their little session together the other night and most of them drank water. That speaks for itself."
The Kangaroos struck further media problems yesterday at a public event where team captains McCracken and Brad Fittler were scheduled to appear together in honour of the Anzac spirit.
However, Fittler did not show up, supposedly because of a transport glitch, although there were inevitable suggestions he was being hidden from the media, who wanted further comment on the Craig Gower affair.
But despite the job being done by the Australian media, the Kiwis know they are the only ones who can rattle the Kangaroos on the pitch tonight.
So expect things like short kickoffs, positional switches such as Henry Paul to the backs and Ruben Wiki to the forwards and lots of interchange as they seek to confuse and overpower the Australians.
The Kiwis walked around Stadium Australia last night to get a feel for the size of it, since only the Parramatta crew and Canterbury's Willie Talau have played there.
Richie Barnett has recovered from a virus and the rest of the team were declared A1.
The weather is expected to be showery but predominantly fine and organisers are hoping for a crowd of around 45,000.
McCracken, carrying the leadership well, said he just wanted the team to continue with what they had done on the training field.
He said: "If we do that, take it to them hard, it'll be a close game. There's some inexperience but we're ready to play football."
Darren Lockyer, Mat Rogers, Darren Smith, Laurie Daley, Wendell Sailor, Brad Fittler (captain), Allan Langer, Jason Smith, Gorden Tallis, Robbie Kearns, Glen Lazarus, Andrew Johns, Shane Webcke. Reserves: Matt Sing, Nik Kosef, Bryan Fletcher, Steve Price.
Richie Barnett, Lesley Vainikolo, Willie Talau, Ruben Wiki, Sean Hoppe, Robbie Paul, Stacey Jones, Logan Swann, Nathan Cayless, Jarrod McCracken (captain), Jason Lowrie, Henry Paul, Joe Vagana. Reserves: David Kidwell, Matt Rua, Terry Hermansson, Richard Swain.
Stuart Cummings (England). Kick off: 9.30pm (NZ time).