New Kiwis’ spine will get better yet
The Kiwis’ ‘‘spine’’ silenced all their doubters on Saturday night while the Kangaroos have a week to find a decent chiropractor in
It was a passing of the guard for both sides at Mt Smart Stadium, the new-look spine, or fullback, hooker, halves combination, for both the Kiwis and Kangaroos was a topic of much discussion leading into the one-off test.
Nobody really knew what to expect.
Australia were without future hall-of-famers Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater while the Kiwis were blooding a new hooker and rookie captain at fullback. And for the first time in a long time, it’s advantage New Zealand in that department.
The spine is the body’s central support structure, which works to keep us upright and serves as the connection to all other moving parts.
In rugby league it’s no different, key positions essential to the function of a football team – the No 1, 6, 7 and 9.
Australia have been blessed in that department for the better part of a decade, but it looks as though the tide may have finally turned.
Led by Dallin Watenezelezniak and man of the match Shaun Johnson, the Kiwis’ spine dominated their heavily favoured rivals, winning 26-24 – a scoreline that flattered the out-ofsorts Kangaroos.
Watene-zelezniak said postmatch the result was a foundation for which the side, under new coach Michael Maguire, will build from and like any rugby league dynasty, their spine will be a key component. In an added boost, it’s one waiting to welcome back arguably its most important vertebrae, in Roger Tuivasa-sheck.
The new combinations work, that much is clear. While nobody would argue Johnson didn’t deserve man of the match, it could have just as easily gone to any one of his fellow members in that Kiwis’ spine.
Watene-zelezniak was electric from his first carry, Kodi Nikorima had limited opportunities but gave Johnson plenty of good early ball to work with and rookie rake Brandon Smith scored a try and had another disallowed in a breakout game for the Waiheke Rams junior.
They were perfectly aligned from the opening whistle, while on the other side, Australia were uncharacteristically unstable from the jump.
A collection of brilliant individuals wasn’t enough. In contrast the Kangaroos looked disorganised and disjointed in their key positions, though coach Mal Meninga won’t panic.
Despite the result, it’s been a long time since a Kangaroos side have ran out without the likes of Smith and Thurston as the pillars in that green and gold spine.
They also lost first-choice five-eighth Cameron Munster earlier in the week and had his replacement, Luke Keary, knocked out in the 17th minute.
It was also the debut test for hooker Damien Cook and fullback James Tedesco, who will be better for the experience.