BY Chris Kennedy (NRL.com)
New Zealand winger Jason Nightingale says he's not worried about only being drafted into the Kiwis squad as an injury replacement any more than he's worried about the moon boot that stopped him training with the squad until the final run on Thursday.
The 24-Test veteran was called up after Penrith youngster Dallin Watene-Zelezniak opted for an early guilty plea to a dangerous throw charge that will again deny him a Test debut after a broken foot ruled him out of last year's Four Nations.
Nightingale was the logical replacement except for the fact he is still managing a foot injury that kept him out of the Dragons side for two weeks. He returned in the Anzac Day win over the Roosters and came through unscathed, and although he is still managing the injury, he's in no doubt for Friday's Test.
"[The moon boot is] just precautionary, I've been carrying around an injury for the past month. I played on the weekend. I thought I was going to have a bit more time to recover but it will be all good come [training on] Thursday," Nightingale told media on Tuesday.
While he is "a little bit" disappointed to have missed out on the initial squad, his lack of game time in the lead-up may have been a factor. It didn't make him feel any less a part of the group though.
"This is my 25th Test, I've been in and out of sides for 10 years and it doesn't change anything for me, I don't come into a Test arena to make anything about myself," he said.
"Even doing a press conference about it is not the ideal way to come into a camp and come in late, ideally you'd come in with everyone so you can 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 the environment and have the opportunity to run out on Friday."
Having been a part of the successful New Zealand Four Nations side last year, Nightingale said it felt very familiar being back around the group.
"It does feel like only yesterday we were in the Four Nations for those five weeks," he said.
"We have kept in touch a lot, I've played a lot with this group of guys. If there's a benefit of that short week and not being able to train together it is the fact we have been together a lot in the last few years."
While New Zealand have a terrible record in the mid-year Test – 14 losses and only one win, back in 1998 – they come into this one having beaten Australia in their past two encounters, both in the Four Nations, and have plenty of continuity in their squad, which has been lacking in previous fixtures.
"I think it'd be great to break the run of [Trans-Tasman] Test losses because it would show we can prepare in a short amount of time.
"I thought we went a long way towards doing that last year but didn't get the result we wanted, but we've been building towards something. There's a level of confidence going into the game that's for sure."
Nightingale said he is also looking to rekindling his combination with Roosters centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall.
"I feel very comfortable defending and attacking outside Shaun and am looking forward to striking up that combination again... we pretty much know each other's [game]."