By STEVE MASCORD
AUSTRALIA is set to take significant psychological advantage in sweltering Townsville on Saturday by rejecting New Zealand’s request for drinks breaks during the trans-Tasman Test.
At this stage temperatures are forecast in the high 20s at Dairy Farmers Stadium on Saturday but the Kiwis – including 122kg debutant Sam Kasiano – have already flagged their intention to push during a meeting a few hours before kick-off for breaks.
“One hundred per cent (but) it will be decided on the day,” coach Stephen Kearney told the Herald at Townsville Airport yesterday.
Drinks breaks have been turned into psychological ploys during recent years in the NRL, with requests for them being portrayed to players by their clubs as a sign of opposition weakness or lack of confidence.
Whatever the case, Australia doctor Dave Givney indicated only extreme weather conditions would prompt the green and golds to acceed to the World Cup holders’ request.
“We’d be keen for the extra drinks trainer but not the 20 minute break,” Givney said, “depending on the conditions of course.
“I’d like to add that player welfare is definitely our number one priority.”
Giant fans, slushie machines and ice packs will be available on the sideline to players in both the Test and the Under 20s curtain-raiser.
The Kiwis jetted into Townsville from their base in Cairns yesterday, with the giant Kasiano the subject of scrutiny after he was implicated in comments to a female reporter at the Bulldogs’ Mad Monday celebrations.
New Zealand made only assistant coach Tony Iro and prop Jesse Bromwich available to media representatives. Wearing oversized headphones, Kasiano quietly collected his bag and made his way to a waiting bus with team-mates.
Asked how the prop was handling the no-doubt unwanted scrutiny, Iro made no reference to the incident at hand when he answered: “”Sam’s prepared really well. I think he’s obviously nervous, looking forwards to his debut. He won’t be intimidated. He’s a big lump of a lad. He seems to have enjoyed the week in camp so far.
“He’s fortunate to have four of his Bulldogs team-mates with him so he’s fit in really comfortably.”
Iro said centre Krisnan Inu and captain Benji Marshall would have a shootout for goal-kicking duties. Australia trained without incident at Brothers ground in the morning, with an opposed session involving the Junior Kangaroos the main component.
Fullback Billy Slater remained keen to distance himself from the grand final biting incident involving James Graham, which resulted in the England forward being banned for 12 matches.
He said he shook hands with Graham at fulltime
“Like I said in my statement, it was behind me after the game,” Melbourne’s Slater said.
“A lot of things happen on the rugby league field, there’s a lot of emotion in it and mate, I’m a player that’s done stuff and regretted stuff in the past so I’ve got no grudges. It’s passed, it’s in the past and we move on I think.
“You shake hands and you move on.”
Warriors coaching hopeful Iro said he knew nothing about developments at the club, which hopes to name a new coach within a week. Utility Feleti Mateo recently revealed players had told officials they wanted Iro – the caretaker following Brian McClennan’s axing – to get the job.
“You all have more news that me – I haven’t looked at the phone, I’ve got more worries this weekend,” Iro said.
“I’ll get back to it on Monday.
“I’ve gone through the independent process like lots of other coaches. The story changes every 48 hours. I’m not sweating on it.
“(Craig Bellamy) is obviously a coach in demand so he’ll have his reasons to do what he’s going to do.” Bellamy has again said he will not join the Warriors.
Slater joined Melbourne team-mates in saying Bellamy had earned the right to move on in 2014 if that was his choice.
“For starters, he’s there next year,” he said. “We never look too far down the track as a club. Other than that, everyone goes through contract negotiations – whether you’re a player or a coach.
“Craig’s done so much, not just for us a club but me as an individual as well. We fully respect his decision no matter what he comes up with.
“Cooper (Cronk) went through it this year. It’s a touch decision but in the end he’ll do what’s best for Craig Bellamy and we respect that because he’s done so much for us.”
Kiwis and Melbourne prop Jesse Bromich said Bellamy saying would be “good news for the club – he’s an awesome coach. He’s done a lot for myself and my career in a short time and I couldn’t praise him enough.”
When Bromwich was asked if Kiwi-born Australia prop James Tamou coach expect any sledging, he said: “Nothing’s really been said about that yet.
“He wanted to play for Australia. I’ve never doubted myself. I was always a proud Kiwi.”
The Australians have today off, while the Kiwis have a school visit in the morning followed by afternoon training. The Test is a 26,500 sellout.