‘Ri­cho’ joins Ki­wis re­build

Sunday Star-Times - - SPORT - MAR­VIN FRANCE Shane Richard­son

Vet­eran Aus­tralian ad­min­is­tra­tor Shane Richard­son has vowed to bring open­ness and trans­parency to the Ki­wis as he heads up their World Cup cam­paign.

New Zealand head into next month’s tour­na­ment not only look­ing to re­verse their for­tunes on the field, but need­ing to re­store their rep­u­ta­tion off it in the wake of the co­caine scan­dal in May.

That in­ci­dent fol­low­ing the An­zac test, which saw then-cap­tain Jesse Bromwich and back-rower Kevin Proc­tor stood down for the World Cup, was the most ex­treme ex­am­ple. But since then, re­ports of a lack of pro­fes­sion­al­ism in the build-up to the de­feat in Can­berra and al­co­hol-re­lated in­ci­dents at the end of last year have all con­trib­uted to the per­cep­tion of a poor cul­ture within the squad.

Coach David Kid­well and the NZRL have not been com­pletely forth­com­ing in ad­dress­ing ques­tions around the team’s cul­ture.

But it ap­pears that may change un­der Richard­son, one of the long­est serv­ing ex­ec­u­tives in the NRL, who is de­ter­mined to win back the pub­lic’s trust.

‘‘I haven’t been in the Ki­wis be­fore. I tend to al­ways look not on what’s gone on in the past but what we’re go­ing to do in the fu­ture,’’ Richard­son told Stuff.

‘‘For this cam­paign we want an open, hon­est and trans­par­ent op­er­a­tion where we have a good re­la­tion­ship with the me­dia and New Zealand pub­lic, where we tell the truth about what we’re do­ing and try­ing to do. Where the play­ers buy in to what we’re try­ing to achieve and that they have a say in what we’re try­ing to achieve with good qual­ity lead­er­ship.

‘‘We spent a fair bit of time be­hind the scenes work­ing on that and I’m con­fi­dent that Adam Blair and Kiddy [Kid­well] are on the same page on ex­actly what we re­quire there.’’

Ap­proached by the NZRL in March to take up the cam­paign man­ager role, you could for­give Richard­son for sec­ond-guess­ing his de­ci­sion fol­low­ing the Can­berra de­ba­cle. But he in­sists his main con­cern was for Bromwich - ‘‘a re­ally good hu­man be­ing who made a poor choice on the night’’.

Af­ter ob­serv­ing the prepa­ra­tion I tend to al­ways look not on what's gone on in the past but what we're go­ing to do in the fu­ture. to the test, Richard­son con­ducted a ‘‘com­pre­hen­sive re­view’’ and has worked with Kid­well to tighten up the team’s struc­ture, re­vamp the code of con­duct and clar­ify roles within the squad.

He played a key role in ap­point­ing Blair as cap­tain and af­ter a long-winded search for Kid­well’s as­sis­tants, they fi­nally set­tled on vet­eran Brian Smith and promis­ing Aussie Garth Bren­nan.

In re­gards to changes to the code of con­duct, Kid­well has pre­ferred to keep the de­tails in-house and Richard­son de­fended the coach, in­sist­ing the play­ers need to be in­formed first when the squad is an­nounced next month.

There has been talk of a al­co­hol ban, though, and given what is at stake, Richard­son felt that easy sac­ri­fice to make.

‘‘We’ve ob­vi­ously spo­ken to Adam about it [code of con­duct] but we need to go through it with the play­ers. That’s a de­ci­sion for the NZRL but I’d have no qualms shar­ing that with ev­ery­body,’’ he said. ‘‘But cer­tainly, it’s about tight­en­ing up around the in­volve­ment in the ho­tels around al­co­hol, around be­hav­iour and cul­ture.’’

With four decades of rugby league ex­pe­ri­ence, Richard­son has over­seen sev­eral clubs in Aus­tralia and Eng­land, as well as hold­ing ex­ec­u­tive roles in the NRL and Su­per League.

No stranger to re­builds, in 2003, ‘Ri­cho’, as he is known, helped Pen­rith to the pre­mier­ship in his sec­ond year in charge, just two sea­sons af­ter they had won the wooden spoon.

The fol­low­ing year he moved to South Syd­ney, where he con­tin­ues to call the shots as gen­eral man­ager of foot­ball, and was part of the brains trust that trans­formed the Rab­bitohs from a rab­ble to NRL pow­er­house, break­ing a 43-year pre­mier­ship drought in 2014.

Asked what con­trib­uted to a suc­cess­ful team cul­ture, Richard­son was an said: ‘‘The first con­sid­er­a­tion can’t be your­self, it has to be what are you do­ing to help the per­son next to you?

‘‘But I think more im­por­tantly, that there are lit­tle dis­ci­plines in place that peo­ple un­der­stand and there’s an open, hon­est and trans­par­ent con­ver­sa­tion with ev­ery­body.

‘‘Whether it be the play­ers, the me­dia or any­body else so that ev­ery­body feels that they’ve bought into what we’re try­ing to achieve.’’

Richard­son ac­knowl­edged how im­por­tant the Maori cul­ture is to the Ki­wis and it is some­thing he has em­braced, to the point of learn­ing the haka.

He also has full con­fi­dence in Kid­well, who heads into the World Cup un­der im­mense pres­sure af­ter just one win in six tests.

The pair have his­tory, with Richard­son re­cruit­ing Kid­well as a player for his lead­er­ship when he was re­build­ing Souths, and later ap­pointed him as the club’s un­der­20s coach.

‘‘My role is to try and take as much pres­sure off David and cer­tainly that’s what the coach­ing staff and sup­port struc­ture we put around him is all about.’’

MARK KOLBE/GETTY IMAGES

Jesse Bromwich of the Ki­wis runs out on to the field be­fore the An­zac test against Aus­tralia in Can­berra in May. He was em­broiled in a co­caine scan­dal with team-mate Kevin Proc­tor af­ter the match.

Souths co-owner Rus­sell Crowe, left, with Shane Richard­son.

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