Pride on the line

Go Ki­wis!

Waikato Times - - Front Page - David Long

‘‘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.’’

Jared Waerea-Har­g­reaves

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.’’

MATT KING/GETTY IMAGES

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.

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