Roos promise: 'We won't get blindsided'
Given the hullabaloo surrounding Greg Inglis's special 90-metre try-scoring effort against Brisbane in Round 8 – and New Zealand's curious under-strength team announcement - some wags are wondering why there isn't a market framed on GI outscoring the Kiwis on Friday night.
Certainly huge debate surrounding the make-up of Stephen Kearney's side – one which includes a NSW Cup player, a three-gamer at dummy-half, a back-rower who'll back up the three-gamer dummy-half... and no Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.
It's clear that both sides are on different flight paths: There are at least four Immortals in the current Australian line-up, a further two Dally M winners, a set of twins, and a benchie who set up six tries off his own bat last weekend.
In contrast, Kiwis coach Kearney has picked six debutants for a mid-year fixture New Zealand has not won since 1998. And all the Broncos assistant had to offer on announcement was: this is for the 2017 World Cup.
For a second, we all believed him. But not GI.
"I think they're just trying to put that off for a distraction for you guys," says the former Storm player about the former Storm assistant coach.
"I know Kearnsey pretty well and I know that he'll be focusing on going out there and making sure that his side is well prepared and ready to give it to us.
"At the end of the day, we've got to show up and really focus on what we've got to do as a team."
And a Kangaroos side that's focused is a Kangaroos side that does historic things... like not conceding a try in almost seven hours of football.
So the Kiwis are underdogs? Been there, done that.
"They're coming in as underdogs and everyone's writing them off already, but I've learnt plenty of times in my career that a team with nothing to lose is a very dangerous team," says skipper Cameron Smith.
And the chances of a Kiwi ambush? Nope, been there, done that, too.
"We need to make sure that we've got that same enthusiasm and energy at the start of the game, to combat their enthusiasm," Billy Slater chipped in.
And as for those unknowns? Well, consider them very well known.
On a possible Peta Hiku-Roger Tuivasa-Sheck combo at fullback, Slater said: "I'd probably say Peta Hiku, but anything's possible. Roger's played a bit there with the Roosters, they're both in great form and they're both great young players. So we saw Peta Hika score four tries on the weekend and he wasn't even playing fullback."
On shock call-up Isaac John, Cooper Cronk said:" I know that he played against us at Melbourne in Round 2 and he was a very good player that causes a lot of issues. The respect will be there. Shaun Johnson's obviously the key, but any time you get a New Zealand player singing the national anthem and performing that haka, I think they grow an extra leg and they play really good football."
And on that three-gamer rookie Siliva Havili slotting in at hooker, the skipper had this: "He played [against us last week] and he didn't play hooker he just played in the ruck. He's played three matches for the Warriors and every time he's come on, he's been a utility playing in the ruck and maybe five minutes or so at hooker. But he's a big guy. He's not small. And he's very willing. He runs the ball strong and he defends really well."
So Stephen Kearney might be pulling everyone's leg when he says he's got one eye on the World Cup, three years from now. But he won't be fooling this Australian team, one that is made to carry their playbooks around everywhere by coach Tim Sheens – Mickey Arthur style.
The Kangaroos, current World Cup holders, will be ready. Their captain sums this up best: "It can only go one of two ways, can't it? It's either we win or they win. They had an experienced team last year in Canberra and we ended up putting a decent score on them," he said.
"So you just don't know – if we don't play well then it's going to be a tough night, but if we play well, hopefully we get a good victory.
"I can't really say too much other than we can only control what we do this week and we've already spoken about our preparation and mostly our attitude towards the game. It needs to be spot on and there can be no sniff of complacency because as soon as there is, it can be a very, very hard night for us."