Australia quick to dismiss form guide
On paper Australia are heavy favourites to claim their third Four Nations title this weekend at Anfield, but Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga and captain Cameron Smith aren't buying it.
The green and gold were commanding 36-18 winners over England last weekend, leaving them with three wins from three tournament pool matches, while the Kiwis limped through to the final with a win, a loss and a draw, the last of which saw them become the first first-tier nation to fail to beat a tier-two side.
But while most of the rugby league world don't give New Zealand any chance of claiming the title this Monday morning (AEDT), Smith said his previous experiences suggested that would mean nothing come kick-off.
"I recall that was the same outlook from media and public in 2008 in the World Cup in Australia, the same outlook by the media and public in 2010 at the Four Nations," Smith said.
"I played in both of those matches where everyone thought it was just Australia who were going to run up and win, and we didn't.
"So we are not under any illusions about who we are facing this week and what they are capable of doing.
"They are ranked No.1 in the world at the moment and coming off their match on the weekend I think they will be particularly desperate to show everyone what they are capable of doing."
Australia have beaten the Kiwis in their last three head-to-head meetings, outscoring their trans-Tasman rivals 56 points to 14.
The Kiwis, already without first-choice spine members Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Kieran Foran, are also furthered weakened by the loss of five-eighth Thomas Leuluai who suffered a fractured jaw in the 18-18 draw with Scotland in Workington.
But Meninga believed the strength of the Kiwi culture was such that on their day they are capable of anything.
"Doesn't matter [about form guides or opinions], doesn't matter, it is a funny game rugby league, or any sport really," Meninga said.
"There is no doubt New Zealand will come really well prepared and feeling that they have got a second chance, and because of that they will want to play as best as they possibly can."
The Anfield decider is the first time the Kiwis have qualified for a Four Nations final on English soil, while Australia have won both of the previous tournaments held in England back in 2009 and 2011.
First published on NRL.com.