Va­gana joins Ki­wis’ Cup bid

Sunday News - - NRL GRAND FINAL 2017 LEAGUE - MARVIN FRANCE

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.

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