Packer ‘supremely confident’ in Kiwis
One day Russell Packer’s jail term will cease to be the first thing we mention.
Nor will the fact he appears to have turned his life around, after serving 12-months of a two-year sentence for causing actual bodily harm, be noteworthy either.
They’ll just be aspects of the New Zealand Warriors, St George Illawarra Dragons, New Zealand and, from next year, Wests Tigers’ prop’s life that go without saying.
For now, though, it’s hard not to preface any story about how good it is to be playing for the Kiwis, without dwelling on what the 28-year-old might have been up to instead.
‘‘Still cherishing every day that I have in camp. You don’t realise it until you go through other things,’’ was the veiled way Packer referenced his past this week.
Not that everyone will care. Some folk will feel that after repeatedly punching someone and stomping on their head, that you have no place in international sport.
Others will be heartened by the fact Packer is now a teetotaller and university graduate, who appears poised to make quite a telling contribution to the culture of rugby league.
And, yes, there will be those whose only interest is in what the prop does on the paddock.
It’s so far, so good on that front. Playing off the bench, Packer has made a decent impact during this World Cup, as have the rest of New Zealand’s interchange players.
In fact, if they’ve had a real strength coming into Saturday’s quarterfinal against Fiji in Wellington it’s been the bench.
In Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Packer and Isaac Liu, New Zealand have generated excellent goforward, leading you to wonder if any of the trio might be a better starting option than Jared WareaHargreaves.
Instead it’s hooker Danny Levi that’s gone from the interchange and into the run-on side, replacing veteran Thomas Leuluai. Kodi Nikorima, who played five-eighth against Samoa and Tonga, now assumes Nikorima’s old role on the bench.
Nikorima has speed and utility value, but is unlikely to match the quality of Levi’s service from dummy-half.
Not that Packer’s too worried. Despite last Saturday’s 28-22 loss to Tonga, his faith in New Zealand’s title credentials remains intact.
‘‘I’m very lucky and privileged to be a part of this [World Cup] and still supremely confident we have a team capable of winning it,’’ he said.
Outside backs Suliasi Vunivalu, Kevin Naiqama and Akuila Uate loom as Fiji most dangerous ballrunners, but returning five-eighth Te Maire Martin’s actually wary of their pack.
Prop Russell Packer has been good off the bench for New Zealand at this World Cup.