By Mary Maidiotis
St George Illawarra Dragons winger Jason Nightingale is happy to be back in camp with his New Zealand Kiwis teammates as they prepare for the traditional ANZAC Test Match against the Australia Kangaroos at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane on Friday.
Nightingale, 28, was called in as a replacement for the suspended Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and guaranteed he was a certain starter for the game, despite attending training in a moon boot.
The Kiwis are crawling up on the world number one Test ranking but the New Zealand International states that Friday’s game is their main focus, as the side looks to break their run of ANZAC Test losses, stemming back to 1999.
Nightingale believes the momentum and confidence gained from last year’s Four Nations win, in which he was the tournament’s top try scorer, will elevate them to victory come Friday night.
“The moon boot is just precautionary, I’ve been carrying a foot injury for the last month or so but it’ll be all good come Thursday,” assured Nightingale.
“I have to wear the moon boot for two days, then have a training run on Thursday, so I’ll be 100% fine on Friday.
“I’ve obviously had to prepare my week a little bit differently in terms of treating my foot and that’s why I couldn’t have a run today but it’s awesome to get called back into camp.
“Not having that full week of preparation is far from essential but I’ve prepared like this before and that’s the way it’s going to be this week.
“Ideally you want to fly under the radar and not have to wear a moon boot but that’s the way things happen sometimes, I’m just really happy to be here in this environment and to have the opportunity to run out on Friday.
“I’m incredibly excited to be a part of it and it’s a shame the way it happened, but Dallin will get his opportunity very soon, I’m sure.
“I was disappointed to miss out on the squad initially but Steven said that it would’ve been a different story had I played in the three weeks leading up to it.
“I’ve been in and out of sides for ten years so being a late call-up doesn’t change anything for me, I don’t go into the Test arena and make anything about myself.
“It’s exciting to be back here in camp, it feels like only yesterday that we were all together for the Four Nations, so it’s a great feeling.
“I feel extremely comfortable defending outside of Shaun Kenny-Dowall and I’m looking forward to striking up that combination again.
“I already know his game, we’ve played together enough that we know all each other’s habits so that will be a huge benefit after not being able to train all week.
“It does feel like only yesterday that we were in the Four Nations for all those five weeks and that is an advantage when it feels so close.
“We kept in touch quite a great deal and I’ve played a lot with this group of guys, so it is a benefit when having a short week and not being able to train together.
“I suppose it is a bit of a roll, it doesn’t feel like long ago when we were all together which is not something we’re used to, and I think that lack of preparation is the main problem with the ANZAC Test for us as a nation.
“The number one Test spot isn’t exactly our motivation, we want to win a game every time we run out onto the field and be the best team we can be, so eventually if we keep winning games, that’s what happens.
“We’re just looking to put in consistent effort and follow on from what we’ve been doing for the last couple of years.
“It will be great to break the run of ANZAC Test losses because it will prove that we can prepare in a short amount of time, which I think we went close to doing last year but we’ve been building towards something and there is a higher level of confidence going into this game.”