New Zealand coach Michael Maguire spoke about beating Australia so often in the lead-up to Saturday night's 26-24 triumph at Mt Smart Stadium that his players were convinced they would win.

Maguire, the 2014 South Sydney premiership-winning coach, plotted his first victory in charge of the Kiwis after taking on the role in the wake of last year's disastrous World Cup campaign and the players said he had instilled a belief within the team they had not experienced in recent seasons.

While New Zealand fans, whose disillusionment with previous performances was evident by the poor crowd in Auckland for the Test, had braced themselves for the worst after tries to Valentine Holmes and Dane Gagai put the Kangaroos ahead at half-time despite New Zealand's domination, the players never lost confidence.

"I think the work done, especially by Madge, during the week set us up," Johnson said. "He spoke about winning that many times that it was like we had won the game before we played it. It was like we were locked in to doing it.

"The experience Madge had bought … it fizzes down from the top. I really felt like the work had started before we got into camp, and I haven't had that since I have been in this group."

For many players in the New Zealand team, including 25-Test veteran Jared Wearea-Hargreaves, it was the first time they had won a Test against Australia, whose last defeat was in the 2015 Anzac Test.

Maguire had handed debuts to part-time Melbourne hooker Brandon Smith and Sydney Roosters centre Joseph Manu, who both attracted large numbers of supporters from their home towns, while the appointment of fullback Dallin Watene-Zelezniak as captain was inspired. 

However, after the Kiwis' failure to advance past the quarter-final stage of last year's World Cup following defeats by Tonga and Fiji, Johnson knew the reaction would have been much different if the team had not performed well on Saturday night.

"Obviously you take the good with the bad throughout your career and obviously a lot of the time I'm at the front when things aren't going well," he said.

"I think times like this, when you do play well and you do get a good win against a quality team, you've got to enjoy it. It was a complete team performance, but I love this feeling and I'm not going to let it go anytime soon. It is just nice to be standing here talking to you guys after a positive win with the Kiwis."

The Test had been overshadowed by next Saturday's historic clash between Tonga and Australia at Mt Smart Stadium, which is expected to be a sell-out, but Johnson said Saturday night's win would provide a much needed boost to the game in New Zealand.

However, the Kiwis also know that their success will be quickly dismissed as a one-off or hollow win over an Australian team in transition after the departure of Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston if they don't beat England in the upcoming three-Test series at Hull, Leeds and Liverpool.

"We saw with the crowd that there were a few diehards there, but in my eyes it was a bit disappointing," Johnson said. "We had three Tests, with the Junior Kiwis, the women's and then the men's. 

"In Auckland, the heart of rugby league, I thought there would be a bit more interest but maybe that just shows where New Zealand rugby league is at, at the moment.

"We understand that we've put ourselves in this position and it's only going to take effort and performances like last night to rebuild that trust with our league community.

"Last night was definitely a good step in that direction and if we can get on the road and play some more good footy, then hopefully when next year comes around we start seeing those fans coming back."

The New Zealand players attended the Kiwis reunion on Sunday and fly from Auckland to Manchester on Monday to prepare for the first Test against England at KCOM Stadium on October 28.