Kiwis role a baptism of fire for Richardson
VETERAN Australian administrator Shane Richardson has vowed to bring openness and transparency to the Kiwis as he heads up their World Cup campaign.
New Zealand head into next month’s tournament not only looking to reverse their fortunes on the field, but needing to restore their reputation off it in the wake of the cocaine scandal in May.
That incident following the Anzac test, which saw thencaptain Jesse Bromwich and back-rower Kevin Proctor stood down for the World Cup, was the most extreme example. But since then, reports of a lack of professionalism in the build-up to the heavy defeat in Canberra and alcohol-related incidents at the end of last year have all contributed to the perception of a poor culture within the squad.
Coach David Kidwell and the NZRL have not been completely forthcoming in addressing questions around the team’s culture, while they also came under fire for failing to promote the Anzac test.
But it appears that may change under Richardson, one of the longest serving executives in the NRL, who is determined to win back the public’s trust.
‘‘I haven’t been in the Kiwis before. I tend to always look not on what’s gone on in the past but what we’re going to do in the future,’’ Richardson said.
‘‘For this campaign we want an open, honest and transparent operation where we have a good relationship with the media and New Zealand public, where we tell the truth about what we’re doing and trying to do.
‘‘One where the players buy in to what we’re trying to achieve and that they have a say in what we’re trying to achieve with good quality leadership.
‘‘We spent a fair bit of time behind the scenes working on that and I’m confident that Adam Blair and Kiddy (Kidwell) are on the same page on exactly what we require there.’’
Approached by the NZRL in March to take up the campaign manager role, you could forgive Richardson for second-guessing his decision following the Canberra debacle.
For this campaign we want an open, honest and transparent operation’ KIWIS CAMPAIGN MANAGER SHANE RICHARDSON
But he insists his main concern was for Bromwich - ‘‘a really good human being who made a poor choice on the night’’.
After observing the preparation to the test, Richardson conducted a ‘‘comprehensive review’’ and has worked with Kidwell to tighten up the team’s structure, revamp the code of conduct and clarify roles within the squad.
He played a key role in appointing Blair as captain and after a long-winded search for Kidwell’s assistants, they finally settled on veteran Brian Smith and promising Aussie Garth Brennan.
In regards to changes to the code of conduct, Kidwell has preferred to keep the details inhouse.
‘‘We’ve obviously spoken to Adam about it [code of conduct] but we need to go through it with the players. That’s a decision for the NZRL but I’d have no qualms sharing that with everybody,’’ Richardson said.
‘‘But certainly, it’s about tightening up around the involvement in the hotels around alcohol, around behaviour and culture.’’
With four decades of rugby league experience, Richardson has overseen several clubs in Australia and England, as well as holding executive roles in the NRL and Super League.
No stranger to rebuilds, in 2003, ‘‘Richo’’, as he is known, helped Penrith to the premiership in his second year in charge.
The following year he moved to South Sydney, where he continues to call the shots as general manager of football, and was part of the brains trust that transformed the Rabbitohs from a rabble to NRL powerhouse, breaking a 43-year premiership drought in 2014.
Asked what contributed to a successful team culture, Richardson said: ‘‘The first consideration can’t be yourself, it has to be what are you doing to help the person next to you?
‘‘But I think more importantly, that there are little disciplines in place that people understand and there’s an open, honest and transparent conversation with everybody. Whether it be the players, the media or anybody else so that everybody feels that they’ve bought into what we’re trying to achieve.’’
He has full confidence in Kidwell, who heads into the World Cup under immense pressure after just one win in six tests.
The pair have history, with Richardson recruiting Kidwell as a player for his leadership when he was rebuilding Souths, and later appointed him as the club’s under-20s coach.
‘‘An untried head coach is always a bit of a challenge but he’s got an enormous character and an enormous will to win,’’ Richardson said.
‘‘My role is to try and take as much pressure off David.’’
Jesse Bromwich is paying the price for making a bad decision.
Shane Richardson, right, and co-owner Russell Crowe, helped break South Sydney’s 43-year drought.