Topic: Rugby League

Old league rivals ready for triple-header

By James Perry

The NZ and Australian league teams have finished their preparations ahead of the triple-header at Mt Smart Stadium tomorrow.

Dallin Wātene-Zelezniak held his first captain's run today. 

Tomorrow he will lead the Kiwis for the first time after being given the captaincy by Michael Maguire, but he's not feeling any pressure a day out from the clash against the world champion Kangaroos.

Wātene-Zelezniak says having many leaders in the squad has helped him transition into the role.

"I'm the one who has the C next to my name, but at the end of the day we've got boys like Jared [Waerea-Hargreaves], and Jesse [Bromwich] and that who have helped me."

Star players Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Issac Luke, who are both out due to injury, looked over the Kiwis training session today.  Their absence has led Maguire to name new look line up, with boom Storm hooker Brandon Smith set to debut at hooker and NRL premiership winner Joseph Manu, playing in the centres.

However, Maguire says the development system in New Zealand has allowed the players to gel quickly this week.  He cites the fact that many of the younger players have been playing representative football together for a few years already.

"I'm fortunate that a lot of the players have crossed paths in some way over the years.  Young Smithy he's jumped in there at number nine, so he's been really good.  I've been really pleased with how he's gone about it."

The historic triple header pits the Junior Kiwis against the Junior Kangaroos followed by the ladies Kiwi Ferns and their Jillaroo counterparts.

The Kiwi Ferns have selected a number of players who played for the Australian clubs in the inaugural NRL Women's competition.

Captain Honey Hireme, who played for the St. George-Illawarra Dragons side, says the Kelvin Wright-coached team has benefited from those players playing alongside the Australians this year.

"We've been playing against each other for years...we've obviously gotten to learn each other's strengths and weaknesses, and vice-versa."

With the final preparations completed, the old rivalry is set to kick off again at 3pm tomorrow afternoon.