Vagana joins Kiwis’ Cup bid
THE final piece of the Kiwis’ backroom staff for the World Cup is in place after former test centre Nigel Vagana was appointed as wellbeing manager.
While not directly in response to the cocaine scandal following this year’s Anzac test, the off-field focused role is another attempt to improve the team’s culture after a disappointing run of results.
It also means under-pressure coach David Kidwell has no lack of support heading into the tournament, with Vagana’s appointment coming after Australian duo Brian Smith and Garth Brennan were confirmed as the assistant coaches last month. The campaign will be overseen by veteran NRL administrator Shane Richardson with Nadene Conlon as team manager.
‘‘Kiddy [Kidwell] was looking at doing this last year. He only came on as head coach late in the piece so it was a bit too late to organise for last year’s tour [Four Nations],’’ Vagana told Stuff.
‘‘We were always looking at it for this campaign and moving forward.
‘‘The Women’s World Cup is on this year and they have a wellbeing manager as well, every NRL club has them. It’s the way teams around the world are going, it’s people supporting what you stand for as a group.’’
Vagana was already working as the New Zealand Rugby League’s wellbeing and education manager after serving a similar role with the NRL.
Combined with his stellar playing career - he played 260 games in the NRL and 37 tests for the Kiwis - the former Warriors back was perhaps the perfect candidate for the position.
Vagana will work with the players around standards and behaviours but his main priority is to create a happy environment that breeds success.
With the squad potentially in camp for seven weeks on the back of a gruelling NRL season, Vagana is wary of the toll such a demand will have on the players’ state of minds, as well as their personal lives. Which is why he wants to have families involved as much as possible.
‘‘They’ve all been training since November last year and some guys like Jason [Taumalolo] and Te Maire [Martin] have played up to the grand final. If we make it all the way through to the final on December 2 they would have been in a rugby league environment for 13 months straight.
‘‘So it’s how we manage that and how we ensure they’re still enjoying it in the seven weeks that we’re together.’’
The New Zealand World Cup squad will be announced on Thursday with their opening game against Samoa in Auckland on October 28.