Underdog status may have been claimed by New Zealand for the trans-Tasman Test but NRL boss Dave Smith hopes the Kiwis continue their resurgence for the international game’s sake.
Once Australia’s whipping boys, Four Nations champions New Zealand can clinch three straight wins over the Kangaroos for the first time since 1953 in Friday night’s Suncorp Stadium clash.
It would also mark the first time Australia had lost a mid-year trans-Tasman Test since 1998, snapping a 15-game run.
Smith admitted watching New Zealand turn the tables on Australia was just what the international game needed.
“It’s great for the game,” he said.
“If it’s close and it’s competitive then that’s terrific for the game.
“For sure, there will be some fireworks on Friday night – Australia needs a win.”
Australia are also at risk of relinquishing the world No.1 ranking at the end of the year if they lose to the Kiwis.
If New Zealand grab the win in Brisbane, they will snatch the top ranking if they beat England in a a best-of-three series.
New Zealand have won their last two Tests against Australia – both in the 2014 Four Nations including their 22-18 triumph in the final.
And their last three victories in Australia over the Kangaroos have all been at Suncorp Stadium.
However, New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney still baulked at the “favourites” tag.
“I don’t think so,” he said.
“We are a different team, in different circumstances and it’s a different time (since the Four Nations final).
Kiwi captain Simon Mannering added: “We are under no illusions that Australia is the benchmark.”
Meanwhile, Smith said the fact it was Australia’s sole Test of 2015 made the match even more significant.
“We have a World Cup looming (in 2017) but this is our last game for a while,” he said.
“Our Kangaroos have been at the top of the tree for a while now and I am sure they will want to climb back up there.”
Meanwhile, it was announced in Brisbane on Wednesday that the trans-Tasman Test man of the match would receive the Charles Savory Medal.
It is in honour of the New Zealand international who died at Gallipoli 100 years ago.
Savory was one of four Kiwis to join the 1911-12 Australasian team for the Kangaroo tour of Great Britain.
“Charles Savory played for his country, then served his country, and made the ultimate sacrifice for his country,” ARL Commission chairman John Grant said.