NEW Zealand are hoping a ‘State of Origin’ style approach to international rugby league will result in Test football domination – and give them a stranglehold on the World Cup.
The Kiwis shocked Ricky Stuart’s Kangaroos in Brisbane in 2008 to claim the showpiece event and the New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) has hatched a plan based on Origin-style preparation camps to rule rugby league at the Test level.
The Kiwis held their inaugural Heritage Camp in Sydney last weekend, attended by 34 top-line players over two days, and NZRL General Manager of High Performance Tony Kemp said it was the first stage of a plan aimed at domination of the international arena by the Kiwis.
“We have never been in a position to run a pre-season camp before and we have always looked at envy with the way those things were done in regard to State of Origin,” he said.
“It gives us the opportunity to get the players together, to get them thinking and working on the things that we want to them to.
“It was an opportunity to get our top 34 players together and to begin to develop them and have them develop together just like Origin does.”
Kemp said he was planning similar camps before the Anzac Test and the World Cup later this year and was in regular contact with his Kiwi stars.
Despite the Kiwis’ World Cup win and their 2005 and 2008 Tri Nations triumphs, Kemp openly admits their performances have lacked consistency, a case in point being their failure to win the Anzac Test since 1998.
“When you look at the investment that Australia makes in Test football and you hear of England spending millions of pounds on their effort to win the World Cup on home soil next year, we really are an amateur nation,” Kemp said.
“But we are trying to change that. The feedback from all the players was very positive from the camp. They all understand what we are trying to do.”
Tony Iro has been employed full time as a member of the NZRL high performance unit under coach Stephen Kearney, another indication of the NZRL’s determination to improve their lot.
Kemp said Kiwi players made up almost a third of NRL clubs’ rosters, indicating now is the time to begin to build.
“When you look at players like Kieran Foran, Benji Marshall, Issac Luke … they are key players in key positions in the NRL and that is to our benefit. In the past, that might not have been the case,” he said.
“This is a six-year plan. They are a lot of good young guys like Foran, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Kevin Proctor, Jesse Bromwich who will be peaking at the next World Cup. We want to win this year’s World Cup, but we want a program in place that delivers consistency and results.”