Price, who said this latest setback has painful similarities to when he missed the 2004 grand final due to injury at the Bulldogs, strained his his left calf muscle during standard training routines in the Kangraoos final run.
Such was the snap of the muscle that Price initially thought prankster Allan Langer, a member of the Kangaroos coaching staff, had thrown a golf ball at him.
“That’s what it felt like and Alfie was standing behind me so I thought he had done it,” Price laughed. “But it turned out he didn’t. It’s just one of those things. Its more than likely an ‘age’ injury. The most disappointing thing is that my mum was coming down to Brisbane for the jersey presentation tonight and [wife] Jo is coming over tomorrow. ”
Price will join brother-in-law Brent Tate on the sidelines after the in form Kangaroos flanker was ruled out earlier this week with a hip-flexor tear that he picked up last week against Fiji.
“I reckon some of the Warriors boys in the New Zealand team must have voodoo dolls of us they’ve been sticking pins in,” he said. “It’s disappointing but someone else gets a chance and the entire squad has been in good form so whoever it is they won’t let anyone down.”
Kangaroos coach Ricky Stuart is believed to be bringing in Manly big man Brent Kite to start the match, with teammate Josh Perry apparently coming into the 17-man squad.
With the Rugby League World Cup only hours away, the mind games have started – with Roos coach Ricky Stuart not speaking to any media, and Kiwi captain Nathan Cayless saying the Kangaroos deserve all the accolades they get, classing them as one of the best teams Australia has produced and scoffed at suggestions thunder storms in Brisbane tonight would favour his side.
Despite expected poor conditions, tournament officials yesterday insisted the final would kick off as scheduled at 7pm (8pm Sydney time) after inspecting the surface at Suncorp Stadium and reviewing backup options should there be more bad weather leading up to the final. With the playing surface having received more than 400mm of rain since last Sunday and a section of the roof having been damaged, the Kangaroos were forced to move their training session but New Zealand were given access to the venue later in the day.
Before then, Cayless and Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney fronted the media in a Brisbane park where much of the talk was about the lack of talk from Stuart, who has not spoken in the week leading up to three of Australia’s five World Cup matches.
“I feel we have an obligation to the game,” Kearney said. “It’s a World Cup final. We feel we’re trying to do the best we can for the game. It’s packed out and it’s going to be a wonderful occasion.”
With the Kangaroos having racked up 180 points to 16 in their four matches leading up to tonight’s final, including a crushing 30-6 win over New Zealand, there are few outside the Kiwis camp who think they can win. However, the Australians are wary as the Kiwis have improved as the tournament has progressed – although Cayless concedes they needed to.
“After the first game we vowed to each other that we wanted to give ourselves another opportunity. We felt like we didn’t play to our ability in the first game and we’ve given ourselves a chance now through a lot of hard work and that sort of stuff and it’s just up to us now to do it out on the field tomorrow night,” he said.
“We need all 17 players to play to the best of their ability for us to get a victory tomorrow night, we’re under no illusions about what sort of a task it is going to be for us.”