They may still cling to the world No.1 ranking but the Kangaroos have lost their aura, Corey Parker says.
The Australian forward has warned ahead of Friday night’s trans-Tasman Test that his veteran side may soon show their age against a young New Zealand team he believes is only going to get better.
The Kiwis were Australia’s whipping boys not so long ago – especially at the one-off Test held each year in April.
New Zealand last claimed the trans-Tasman showdown in 1998 – the year the tradition began.
Thanks to their stunning Four Nations success, the Kiwis have the chance to claim three straight wins over Australia for the first time since 1953.
Asked if Australia had lost their aura in New Zealand’s eyes, Parker said: “Absolutely.
“Look how far they have come. We have played them three times in 12 months and they have beaten us twice.
“You have to give them the respect that they deserve.”
Yet New Zealand still can’t claim world No.1 status with a victory at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
They will only leapfrog Australia if they also down England in an end-of-year three-match series.
But Parker hinted at a bright future for New Zealand as Australia look to field their third oldest team on Friday night despite overlooking veteran Justin Hodges.
“Their core group of players (like Shaun) Johnson, (Kieran) Foran, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck are about 24, so they are going to be around for a long time,” he said.
“Our core group is over the 30-year mark.
“They (New Zealand) are only going to get better as a nation.”
Kangaroos captain Cameron Smith admitted their dominant trans-Tasman Test record meant nothing this year.
“History shows we have pretty good results in these games but it is a different story this time,” he said.
“The Kiwis have a strong squad and they will be confident from last year.
“But we don’t want to go 12 months without a win over the Kiwis, put it that way.”
Smith sounded like a man still smarting from their 22-18 Four Nations final loss to New Zealand following a 30-12 belting from the Kiwis earlier in the tournament.
“I will be honest, it was disappointing not being able to win the Four Nations,” he said.
“That first match we just played poorly: our defence was nowhere near our standard.
“We started well in the final but they have some class players. We know you have to play 80 minutes at this level.”
Smith said their focus would not be keeping their No.1 ranking.
But he admits the fact it is their only chance to play a Test in 2015 gives the match extra significance.
“I think it will. It’s our only opportunity to represent our country for 12 months – we want to do the jersey proud,” he said.