NZ crying out for some real competition
Kiwis’ true worth remains a mystery until they are properly tested in the World Cup.
ELET’S run through the good bits. It’s heartening to see emerging New Zealand rugby league stars such as Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Joseph Tapine and Danny Levi back playing on home soil. Like so many aspiring NRL players before them, the Wellington trio set off for Australia at a tender age and now appear poised for lengthy Kiwis careers.
At the other end of the spectrum, veteran wing Jason Nightingale provided yet another reminder of his many qualities, as New Zealand overwhelmed a hapless Scotland side 74-6 in yesterday’s Rugby League World Cup Pool B clash in Christchurch. You don’t imagine posters of Nightingale adorn many bedroom walls, but the 31-year-old remains one of the more admirable and dependable players around.
In between sits someone such as fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Coming home to play for the New Zealand Warriors – where he was soon lumbered with the captaincy – hasn’t seemed to do great things for his game. So it was nice to see him run rings around the Scots at AMI Stadium.
In the interests of maximising his potential, though, you hope Tuivasa-Sheck eventually heads back to an Australian club or even turns his attention to the All Blacks and a Super Rugby franchise. Just maybe not the Blues.
For now, his workrate and improved ball-playing skills ought to be valuable assets for the Kiwis as this tournament wears on.
Until then, there’s next to nothing that we’ve learned about the New Zealand side and what they’re capable of, following their one-sided encounters with Samoa and Scotland.
Again, Asofa-Solomona seems to be playing with more freedom – and to greater effect – than he’s allowed at the Melbourne Storm. That’s been eye-opening.
Beyond that, though, it’s all been pretty predictable and meaningless stuff, leaving a variety of unanswered questions.
Prop Jared WaereaHargreaves has started both games, but not delivered a lot, and his recall to the side looks a couple of years late. Next Saturday against Tonga might be interesting. Waerea-Hargreaves called out Tonga’s Jason Taumalolo during the recent NRL finals series and got over-run, so it would be useful to see similar at Waikato Stadium.
Not through any ill-will towards Waerea-Hargreaves or the Kiwis, but because a dominant Taumalolo display would hopefully mean a competitive showing from the entire Tonga team and New Zealand need that.
We’ve quickly reached that point where anything that reveals the true nature of Shaun Johnson’s form, and who should partner him in the halves and start at hooker, or in the centres and at prop, would be helpful.
Samoa at least offered a 40-minute test, in New Zealand’s first match. But Scotland’s effort was a poor advertisement for rugby league and the idea that the code can justify world cups.
Let’s hope Tonga can do better.
Jason Nightingale offers dependability for the Kiwis.