Why the Kiwis will lose the World Cup
JEREMY VAN VLIET
Can the Kiwis do it?
It is easy to say that the Kangaroos, being favourites and a nation that has dominated international league like the Romans dominated Europe, will win this Sunday morning.
Unfortunately, this dominance is bad for the international game, and the only way international league will become the pinnacle again is if other nations start winning more often.
The Kiwi team this weekend will be stocked full of world-class players who are arguably the best or close to the best in their respective positions, think Sonny Bill Williams, Jarad Waerea-Hargreaves, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Kieran Foran and Isaac Luke. Even with this sort of talent they have only managed to beat the Kangaroos four times over the last 14 years. So what makes Australia so much better, and allow them to win on more occasions than they lose?
After their semi-final loss to New Zealand last weekend, England's fullback Sam Tomkins said "We need to look at games like this and realise England need to be playing internationals against the best in the world".
In relation to struggling with the intensity of this semi-final Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney said "We have been ticking along for the last five weeks and all of a sudden we got thrown in the cauldron, which we anticipated, but you can't prepare for that".
The Kiwis won the 2008 World Cup and the 2010 Four Nations because those tournaments allowed us to play multiple games and develop combinations that gave us a chance before the big one. This World Cup is similar in that respect but the Australians are not dumb and won't allow the New Zealanders to catch them unaware again.
When there are only three teams in the world that can seriously challenge each other, how do we play more games that represent the cauldron-like atmosphere of a true test match to ultimately improve and therefore challenge the Kangaroos on a more consistent level?
The core of a league team, those who play in the 1, 6, 7 and 9 shirts, is said to be the defining factor in whether a team will perform. Looking at this weekend's game and looking at who will play in those positions will show why I think the Kangaroos will be victorious. For Australia you have Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Johnathon Thurston and either Billy Slater or Greg Inglis, New Zealand will have Isaac Luke, Shaun Johnson, Kieran Foran and Kevin Locke (Possibly Josh Hoffman).
While the Kiwi players are quality players in their own right, the Kangaroo players have a tried and true combination forged over many years of State of Origin. These players, as well as Darren Lockyer, are a major reason why Queensland has won the last eight origin titles; therein lies your answer for New Zealand Rugby League.
There has been talk of Kiwis playing in Origin, but the Aussies wouldn't have it, and fair enough, this is their interstate competition. England has created a game against the Exiles (a team comprised of Australasian's playing in the UK Super League). What is the NZRL doing?
To improve our game we need to create our own 'trial match'. In other sports we have seen a North v South battle which has always failed to deliver. League has a very strange geographical make up which would make this impossible, with most New Zealand league players growing up in Auckland or Australia.
I think the New Zealand series should be a Country of Origin battle, using the same or similar criteria as the State of O', that is in which country was the player's first senior rugby league club or possibly where they lived at a certain age (New Zealand or Australia). It could be billed as the Natives v Ex-pats (or Kozzies, a nickname given to Kiwi Ozzies). Those that consider themselves New Zealanders even though Australia may be their new home.
Over recent years there have been a number of New Zealand eligible players that have defected to play State of Origin, how many of these would have played for the Kiwis if we had our own competition - James Tamou, Ben Te'o, Karmichael Hunt, Joseph Lailua, and Josh Papalii. Every year there is a new name banded about and it looks like New Zealand born Tongan international Jason Taumalolo will be the next recruit in the eyes of Queensland.
With the international game the way it is, players tend to swap allegiance between New Zealand and the Island nations, so allowing players from all these nations to take part should help for the depth of this series and the depth of the game.
This Country of Origin will give the players a chance to better develop these combinations so that when it comes to international games they would already have a familiarity with each other tested under the heat of battle. Not only is this a money maker for the NZRL and the players involved but also a great chance for some great football experience while the Aussies are doing the same.
Win or lose this weekend this series needs to be implemented for the future of the international game.
Here is how the teams could look:
1. Kevin Locke - (Northcote Tigers)
2. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck - (Otahuhu Saints)
3. Shaun Kenny-Dowall - (Ngaruawahia Panthers)
4. Steve Matai - (Richmond Rovers)
5. Manu Vatuvei - (Otahuhu / Ellerslie Leopards)
6. Thomas Leuluai - (Otahuhu / Ellerslie Leopards)
7. Shaun Johnson - (Hibiscus Coast)
8. Jesse Bromwich - (Maurewa Marlins)
9. Isaac Luke - (Hawera Hawks)
10. Ben Matulino - (Wellington Orcas)
11. Simon Mannering - (Wellington Orcas)
12. Sonny Bill Williams - (Marist Saints)
13. Alex Glenn - (Northcote Tigers)
14. Sam Rapira - (Waicoa Bay Stallions)
15. Frank-Paul Nu'uausala - (Otahuhu-Ellerslie Leopards)
16. Russell Packer - (New Zealand Warriors)
17. Elijah Taylor - (Otahuhu Lions)
Squad: Matt Dufie, Dene Halatau, Sam McKendry, Lewis Brown.
Potential Current Island Players: Glen Fisiiahi, Sika Manu, Fuifui Moimoi, Jeff Lima, Kalifa faifai loa, Roy Asotasi, David Fa'alogo, Pita Godinet, Konrad Hurrell
1. Josh Hoffman - (Redcliffe Dolphins)
2. Jason Nightingale - (Renown United)
3. Dean Whare - (Arncliffe Scots)
4. Bryson Goodwin - (Gymea Gorillas)
5. Gerard Beale - (Logan Brothers)
6. Ben Roberts - (Western Suburbs Magpies)
7. Kieran Foran - (Asquith Magpies)
8. Sam Kasiano - (North Devils)
9. Corey Norman - (Beenleigh Lions)
10. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves - (North Sydney)
11. Frank Pritchard - (Campbelltown City Kangeroos)
12. Adam Blair - (Norths Devils)
13. Jeremy Smith - (Runaway Bay)
14. Greg Eastwood - (Brisbane Broncos)
15. Sam Moa - (Cronulla Sharks)
16. Kevin Proctor - (Tugun Seahawks)
17. Tohu Harris - (Melbourne Storm)
Squad: Chase Stanley; Krisnan Inu; Sam Perrett; Bronson Harrison; Justin Horo.
Potential Current Island Players: Jason Taumalolo, Junior Sau.
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