Elusive milestone within reach says Fien - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Elusive milestone within reach says Fien

Chris Barclay 03/05/2011 10:45:39 AM Comments (0)

The Anzac Test has traditionally been a one-sided battle in Australia's favour though adopted Kiwi Nathan Fien says the world and Four Nations champions are capable of causing another trans-Tasman rugby league upset on Friday night.

The Anzac fixture, now held in early May, is the one remaining blight on the Kiwis' record under Stephen Kearney though Fien believes a settled squad is capable of placing one hand on the Bill Kelly Memorial Trophy at Skilled Park.

One-off Tests as the State of Origin series looms have invariably been a disaster for the Kiwis as a lack of preparation time, a mounting injury toll and untimely suspensions conspired against them.

They have only one win - at North Harbour in 1998 - from 11 matches, however, with player depth expanding under Kearney's rule Fien says New Zealand will field a formidable unit against a Kangaroos side desperate to retain their last item of trans-Tasman silverware.

After being routinely thrashed in eight previous mid-year outings the Kiwis showed promising signs 12 months ago as the Kangaroos struggled to a 12-8 win at AAMI Park.

Fien missed that match through injury but returned to Kiwis duty in the Four Nations where his late try in Brisbane sealed the Kiwis remarkable triumph.

He was also involved in the 2008 World Cup win, again at Suncorp Stadium, and believes consistency in selection will benefit the Kiwis when they take on a Queensland-centric line-up hardened by five successive Origin series victories.

New Zealand has no competition to compare with Origin but the current side has at least developed a winning culture during their sporadic get-togethers.

"There's really no excuses for us," Fien said before the 19-man squad had a light training session on Monday.

"The nucleus of this side played in the World Cup and Four Nations. You can't say we're a bit raw in terms of big match experience because our squad has that.

"A lot of our players are getting close to 20 Test matches."

Eight of the 19-man squad have more than 15 caps - Lance Hohaia is the most experienced with 27, three ahead of Warriors captain Simon Mannering.

Adam Blair (21), Benji Marshall (20) and Fien (18) are also seasoned performers while Jeremy Smith and Greg Eastwood (both 17) are fixtures of the pack.

Despite Fien's optimism Kiwis captain Marshall sounded a note of caution ahead of the first of two trans-Tasman Tests in 2011, insisting Australia had been the international game's benchmark for the last 10 years and the Kiwis would "be kidding themselves" if they considered themselves superior.

Johnathan Thurston's availability after he was ruled out of the Anzac Test and Four Nations tournament last year strengthened a Queensland core already featuring Darren Lockyer, Billy Slater, Greg Inglis, Justin Hodges, Sam Thaiday and Cameron Smith.

"They've played a lot of footy together and we know what sort of roll they're on at the moment," admitted Fien.

"It's a big challenge for us, we haven't won one (Anzac Test) for 13 years, we've never won on Australian soil but this is a challenge we're definitely up for."

Fien, who is expected to share the dummy half role with Issac Luke, acknowledged the danger Lockyer and Thurston will pose now they are restored in the halves.

"I don't think you're going to be able to stop everything they do," he said.

"For us, it's going to be how we react as a defensive line. If they step the first line we'll need an extra effort from someone coming across to help a brother out."

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