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The smell of goanna oil and the sound of footy studs on concrete are more powerful than ever in my mind this week. The NRL season just keep getting better, and now the rep season, that place where legends are born, is well and truly upon us. This week's edition of Friday Night Lights looks directly at the importance of both the test match between Australian and New Zealand and the City-Country clash in the Rugby League Calendar.
New Zealand's gallant, never-say-die victory in the Four Nations last year over Australia has breathed a whole lot of life back into international Rugby league. At last, test match footy feels like a contest again. After years of watching Australia beat up the Kiwis, the Poms, and any other team that crosses their path, the Kangaroos are now finding their ascendancy over New Zealand slowly melting away.
New Zealand is now both the World Cup and the Four Nations champions, and for the first time in many years the only thing decorating the Australian trophy cabinet is dust.
But even though the Kiwis can now legitimately claim the title as the best international side, their Achilles heel has always been the mid-season tests. Last year's 12-8 loss to Australia was the closest that they have gotten to winning one in years. This throws up a tricky task of picking the winner between the two teams on Friday Night at Gold Coast's Skilled Park.
Both have strong sides, but the recovery of Kiwi halfback Kieran Foran's corked quadriceps will prove to be an interesting factor. New Zealand captain Benji Marshall needs a foil to allow him to work his magic, but after being completely outclassed by Darren Lockyer in the Tigers/Broncos match two weeks ago, who will come out on top in the second round of these two heavyweights of the game?
Down in Albury, the City vs Country fixture will be played out for another year. Every time City-Country rolls around, we hear and read the same old statements: the Queenslanders love it because they get to watch New South Welshmen belt the bejeesus out of one another; it's irrelevant; it's going to be a