Short Field Has Kiwis On Kick Alert
The Four Nations final will be played on an Anfield surface which is nine metres shorter than stipulated under international rules, something which Kiwis captain Jesse Bromwich believes will make Australia's kicking game even more of a factor on Monday morning (AEDT).
Safety concerns mean the field has been shortened to just 91 metres, in order to allow enough gap between the end of the in-goal areas and the fixed hoardings which surround the venue.
While stating that the dimensions are likely to see higher involvement from both forward packs, Bromwich also suggested it made the general play kicking of Cooper Cronk, Johnathan Thurston and Cameron Smith an increased danger for New Zealand.
"I definitely think so, it is definitely a threat," Bromwich said.
"They have got Cameron in there who jumps out of dummy-half and has a good left foot, and two other kickers who are the best in the comp.
"It's a big job for our back five but I am sure they are up for it… they have a huge job and they have been practicing that all week.
"It is definitely something they have spoken about."
During their captain's run at Anfield on Saturday morning (UK time), Australia dedicated the end of their session to practicing kicks in an attempt to master the new field dimensions and the effects of the different surface.
The wealth of playmaking talent the Kangaroos possess, coupled with the fact that the Kiwis have only one genuine kicker in Shaun Johnson, points to the shorter field serving as a potential advantage for the reigning world champions.
But Australia coach Mal Meninga dismissed any such idea.
"No, not really (it doesn't change anything), you have still got to catch the ball, run with the ball and still have to tackle," Meninga said.
"[Kicking] is a really important part of the game every time you play.
"That is why we are here practicing, obviously with it being a shorter field you have got to get your kicking tempo right.
"Making sure that you land the ball in the field of play, and obviously we don't want the ball going dead in-goal as often."
On the kicking front New Zealand have forced 11 line dropouts in their three Four Nations pool matches to date, while Australia have six over the same period.
This article first appeared on NRL.com