NEW ZEALAND’S NEW IDEN­TITY

Inside Sport - - IN HINDSIGHT -

The Ki­wis are re­build­ing. They had a dis­as­trous 2016 Four Na­tions – a one-point win against Eng­land their only suc­cess – and go into the World Cup with their reg­u­lar cap­tain and an­other se­nior player sus­pended for an off-field in­dis­cre­tion.

Coach David Kid­well came into the role only three weeks be­fore the Perth Test last year. Apart from his side’s poor per­for­mance, he also had to deal with Jessie Bromwich and Kevin Proc­tor’s mis­de­meanour af­ter the An­zac Test in May.

Stephen Kear­ney also faced a short turn­around and a dis­rupted side when he took over the New Zealand side in 2008. He de­cided to cre­ate a team that peo­ple would be proud to fol­low. “When I got of­fered the role, my main pur­pose was to have a footy team that rugby league peo­ple back home were proud of,” says Kear­ney. “It was about cre­at­ing that as an iden­tity by the way we played and hung in the tight games.”

Kear­ney’s cul­ture shift took many years and only hap­pened af­ter the sub­se­quent World Cup. “The big­gest trans­for­ma­tion was af­ter the 2013 World Cup,” he said.

“We coun­tered is­sues at the back end of the tour­na­ment – lead­ing into the semi-fi­nal and fi­nal – that told us maybe we needed a real change, a shift, about who we were. In 2014, we had six or seven guys mak­ing their Test de­buts and left guys out that oth­ers were say­ing should’ve been there. We made a con­scious de­ci­sion to re­build, to make sure we do this the right way.” Gra­ham Lowe also took the Ki­wis dur­ing a trans­for­ma­tional change in the mid-1980s, ex­pand­ing their game style and introducing new play­ers. He’s shared his ex­pe­ri­ences with Kid­well over a few cups of tea and feels en­cour­aged by the young coach’s open­ness to new ideas. “I find it is re­ally en­cour­ag­ing and en­light­en­ing talk­ing with David,” says Lowe. “I think he sat back and thought, ‘Heck, more of that and I won’t be here. So what have we got to do?’ “I think David will get the buy-in quickly. I’ve been im­pressed talk­ing with him. I’ve not had a lot to do with him – but if he’s able to get across the type of game he wants to play, they’ll be a rev­e­la­tion.” Lowe wants Kid­well to be brave and stick to what he thinks will work. “The big­gest risk in this World Cup for David is not tak­ing one. He’s pre­pared and brave enough to do some­thing dif­fer­ent.” Kear­ney also feels the new Kiwi coach has an op­por­tu­nity to re­shape the team his way. “He has a real op­por­tu­nity to build for this cam­paign. I’m pretty sure, talk­ing to him briefly, he’s got his fo­cus on cre­at­ing a new iden­tity or re­shap­ing it for the team.”

New Zealand needs to bounce back from its mid-year An­zac Test loss to Australia.   The Ki­wis will miss Jason Tau­malolo.

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