Pride on the line
‘‘To be able to be a part of the transTasman test is special and to have not only this game, but the three games on the same date, is special.’’
This week is just a small step towards rebuilding the connection between the Kiwis and New Zealand public.
It’s no wonder tonight’s test between the Kiwis and Kangaroos might be played in front of a halffilled Mt Smart Stadium.
Years of ignoring Auckland, the sport’s hotbed in this country, chasing the cash by playing in England and an abysmal World Cup last year have all had an impact on the Kiwis’ reputation.
New Zealanders have fallen out of love with the national team and it’s going to take time to repair the damage.
Thankfully though there’s as last some decent leadership at New Zealand Rugby League now with Greg Peters as chief executive and Reon Edwards as chairman.
Plus in Michael Maguire they’ve not only got one of the best coaches in the world, but someone who’s willing to rebuild the culture and evolve a squad for the long-term.
However, none of this is going to be a quick fix. It’s going to be a while before the Kiwis are regularly competitive against Australia again and the same for the public to passionately support them.
But there’s only one way to win back fans and that’s by playing more tests in New Zealand and getting out among the public.
About 300 people who turned out for the signing sessions for the New Zealand and Australian teams at Sky City on Thursday.
A modest number, given the
stars that were out there, but it’s a start and for Kiwis prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, who plays for the Roosters, it was a rare experience of getting up close with New Zealand rugby league fans.
‘‘It’s always a privilege to come into camp, but to come to these sorts of days, this is what it’s all about, especially in our home country and for our community,’’ he said.
‘‘To be able to be a part of the trans-Tasman test is special and to have not only this game, but the three games on the same date, is special and I’m looking forward to it,’’ he added, referring to the Junior Kiwis v Junior Kangaroos clash and the test between the Kiwi Ferns and Jillaroos.
‘‘To play the Australians here is massive for our game, we’ve played plenty of tests, but to play this one here is awesome.
‘‘For our people and community, this is what it’s all about, trying to build the game, make it stronger here in New Zealand and this is how we do it, by playing these sorts of games here.’’
A win tonight by the Kiwis will hasten the reconnection with the New Zealand public and WaereaHargreaves says a big factor will be the beginning of the test.
‘‘We’ve got to start well and everyone in the 17 has to of their job,’’ the 29-year-old said.
‘‘Coming up against a quality side like Australia, we need to do what we can control and that’s getting the preparation right, bringing the right attitude on Saturday and play as well as we can.
‘‘We’ve got to start well first of all, just complete and get to a kick.’’
Not that he’d say anything different, but preparation wise Waerea-Hargreaves said it had been a good week in camp and certainly they do seem to be a more organised outfit.
‘‘I’m really excited about our playing group,’’ he said.
‘‘There has been a lot of change, but for the better.
‘‘We’ve trained well all week, we’re coming up against a quality side in Australia, but I’m really looking forward to the challenge on Saturday night.
‘‘We’re building and building for something special.’’
Prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves will bring the same passion to the Kiwis for tonight’s test against Australia that he exhibits for his Roosters club.