Rory Fallon sees the All Whites’ clash with Australia on Monday as being a friendly in name only.
Fallon, whose goal against Bahrain in Wellington last November helped to book New Zealand’s ticket to the World Cup, which begins in three weeks, joined up with his team-mates as the 23-strong began assembling in Auckland yesterday.
The All Whites have three build-up matches before they head to South Africa, the first against the Socceroos.
Fallon, 28, said he never put much store by friendlies, but the traditional trans-Tasman rivalry put the fixture at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in a different category.
”When it comes to playing Australia, all bets are off,” he said.
”I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few injuries. I don’t think anyone is going to hold back against them. I’m certainly not going to hold back.”
Fallon said Australia, who are also headed to the World Cup, wouldn’t want to suffer a defeat at the hands of what they might consider to be a lesser footballing nation.
”They probably say they have a lot better pros and they won’t want to lose this, and we want to win it,” he said.
”It’s going to be a good game. It’s going to be one of those games where everyone is going to get stuck in.”
The son of Kevin Fallon, who was assistant coach in Spain in 1982 on the only occasion the All Whites have qualified for the World Cup, Gisborne-born Fallon played at age-group level for England.
A change in international eligibility rules meant he could represent New Zealand at senior level and he made his debut for the All Whites against Jordan last September, scoring a goal in a 3-1 win.
Two months later, he etched his place in New Zealand sporting history with the header that secured a 1-0 aggregate win over Bahrain.
A Christian, he described the moment as life changing and one that continued to give him goose bumps.
”I see that goal and every time I just say, ‘Thank you, God for giving me that goal’ – it’s just changed my life, especially in New Zealand,” he said.
”No-one knew who I was. They probably knew my father more than me. That goal has changed everything. It is such a blessing to me and, every time I see it, it gives me goose pimples.”
After Australia, the All Whites have further friendlies against Serbia in the Austrian city of Klagenfurt on May 30 (NZ time) and Slovenia in Maribor on June 5.
While his immediate focus is the World Cup, Fallon’s future beyond that remains up in the air.
His English club, Plymouth Argyle, lost its battle with relegation and will be in the third-tier League One next season.
Fallon, who has an ambition to play in the English Premier League, hoped that some strong performance in South Africa might put him in the shop window.
”If I have a great World Cup, who knows, I could be going anywhere,” he said.
”I’m going to work so hard. This is my chance to do something really worthy, so I’m not going to let it slip through my fingers.”