Voss: Why the Kiwis can win Four Nations Final
1) The historical stats are against the Kiwis winning the Four Nations Final, right Vossy?
Absolutely … except one.
As you are all aware Australia has dominated the head-to-head battles between the two nations.
After the Kiwis' win in Brisbane three weeks ago the record stands at 95 wins to Australia, 30 to New Zealand and three draws from 128 clashes.
In Wellington, the Kangaroos have won five of seven including a record 58-0 thumping in their most recent meeting in the New Zealand capital in 2007.
On that occasion, Steve Matai was sent from the field in the opening minutes after a high tackle on Mark Gasnier.
New Zealand winning two tests against Australia in the same year is a rare event. It's happened just four times since 1908!
We can narrow that down even further to only three occasions they’ve managed consecutive test victories over the Kangaroos…
The last time New Zealand completed back-to-back Test wins against their arch-rival in the same year was 1953 and the venue was…
2) So, who wins?
I’m tipping New Zealand.
Obviously there could be some mental ‘baggage’ from last year’s World Cup Final at Old Trafford, but the line-ups will be vastly different in Wellington from those that took to the field in the Kangaroos' emphatic 34-2 win.
The Kangaroos have just eight players backing up from the Cup decider. Surprisingly, the Kiwis have even less at seven.
I know I’m throwing plenty of statistics at you this week, but it's interesting to note from the two Tests between the nations this year, the winning side has taken out the second half 18-nil.
I think Saturday night, again we’ll have a tight first half, but I’m not anticipating the home side to fold when the Four Nations trophy is really on the line. And I expect the Kangaroos to find more fight than they did three weeks ago in Brisbane… just not enough.
This has been such a great tournament of Test match rugby league. A close final will be a fitting finish, and that’s exactly what I’m tipping.
The Kiwis by 2.
3) Who has been the player of the tournament?
With one game to go… Greg Inglis.
And that’s despite the fact GI sat out the second half against New Zealand in Brisbane.
This genuine superstar of our game has come up with plenty of big plays, and his Test try tally has grown.
But I’ll give you a few other nominations.
From the two teams not involved in the decider I thought Samoa’s Josh McGuire was great. Who knew he could be such a good stopgap hooker as well?
For England, Sam Tomkins played the best football I’ve seen from him at this level.
And for the other side in the final, New Zealand, they have had a host of very good contributors. Dean Whare, Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson, Jesse Bromwich and Adam Blair all deserve a mention.
I considered Blair the man of the match in Dunedin last Saturday night. The Tigers forward has copped plenty of criticism over the last few years, but his game against England was top class.
4) Where did England go wrong?
That’s a frustrating one for their passionate fans.
Look, we could easily have been previewing a final with Steve McNamara’s side in it. They could have won three from three.
Let the post-mortem show that when it really mattered in games against Australia and New Zealand, they just didn’t come up with the points at the finish.
The Kangaroos came from behind to beat them in Melbourne, while the Kiwis showed their late finish skills with their victory over a gallant Samoa.
Individually they had some real success stories. The likes of hooker Daryl Clark are going to be on the Test scene a long time.
The bottom line: England are left to ponder the thought of “maybe next time”. It’s just that “next time” is proving to be a long time coming.
5) What’s the future for Samoa at Test level?
It’s big, but they need equally big support.
And that’s my fear. Every Test they play, and it should be three times more than they have scheduled now, they need all of their eligible players from the NRL on deck.
I wrote in this column last week how I believed an annual Kiwis v Samoa series could run parallel to State of Origin. I was overwhelmed by the positive reaction to the idea. The support of such a concept from fans seems massive.
I think the Whangarei Four Nations Test could be a real watershed moment in the nation’s Test history. However, to build on that success, the announcements of a full schedule of games and big matches needs to be immediate and not a few years down the track.
6) Will be Ben Barba be a success at the Sharks?
I certainly hope so.
If he is, I think all league fans win, and not just those who follow Cronulla.
Lets not forget too quickly what he achieved in his stellar Dally M Medal winning year of 2012. Barba in that form makes you want to watch rugby league.
He was a headline act then … I only hope the headlines he features in next season are all for plenty more on-field magic.
I’ll be in Wellington on Saturday night to call the Four Nations final for Sky Sport NZ and a big international audience.
In Australia, Channel Nine will have the match live.
It’s going to be a cracker.