Veteran coach Tim Sheens admits Friday night may present Sydney sports fans with their final opportunity to see first-hand the most dominant rugby league team in history.
If Sheens’ unbackable Kangaroos defeat an understrength New Zealand outfit missing Sonny Bill Williams and company, they will equal the world record run of 16 straight wins by Australia’s “Invincibles” from 1979-83.
“We like to think we’re the ‘Unbeatables’ and we’re going okay,” Sheens said on Wednesday.
Then another victory over the Kiwis in this year’s Four Nations opener in Brisbane in October would leave Sheens’ “Unbeatables” untouchable with the world record on their own.
But with the spine of the team – fullback Billy Slater, five-eighth Johnathan Thurston, halfback Cooper Cronk and hooker and captain Cameron Smith – all among the world champions in their 30s, Friday could be the last time this collection of all-time greats play together in Sydney.
“The average is closer to 30 than 20 so maybe they won’t be together that much longer,” Sheens said on Wednesday.
“So it’s a good chance to come out and support them.
“I’m hoping given that it’s the first time in six years that an Australian Test side has played in the middle of Sydney (Allianz Stadium), I’d be very disappointed if they didn’t come out to honour those boys.
“They’ve played really well for Australia and represented their country last year in England and this is the first chance (since winning the World Cup) you’ll get to see them – and maybe the last chance.”
Despite his side being on the cusp of history, Sheens said it would be foolish and disrespectful to take victory over the Kiwi underdogs for granted.
“You go back to the World Cup prior to the last one. You go back to the 2010 Tri Nations when they beat us in the final,” he said.
“Although there’s a couple of young guys admittedly – rookies – if you go through their side, who is playing poorly?
“Really, every one of them is in good form and I think Stephen Kearney has picked a side of guys who are playing well.
“So our job is to make sure that we’re on song and that we don’t drop off and that we don’t drop our intensity and we don’t take it for granted that everybody’s saying that we’re an unbackable favourite.”
Sheens said he’d be reminding the Kangaroos about how they were in a similar position for last year’s trans-Tasman Test when the Kiwis threatened an ambush.
“We were flat in this game last year in the first half,” he said.
“They had two or three tries disallowed and were unlucky, very unlucky.”