Packer ‘supremely con­fi­dent’ in Ki­wis

The Press - - Sport - HAMISH BID­WELL

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.

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

Prop Rus­sell Packer has been good off the bench for New Zealand at this World Cup.

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