A blast from coaching guru Wayne Bennett
and a vow to rid past ill-discipline has steeled the Kiwis for their
rugby league World Cup opener against the hosts on Sunday.
As the Kiwis eye their first serious training session in Sydney
today, captain Nathan Cayless said Bennett had quickly jolted them
into the right frame of mind.
“Wayne doesn’t muck around with his words, he let us know
exactly what he expects and let us know exactly what he thought of
our game in May. He was pretty disappointed in that game,” Cayless
That was the previous time the Kiwis faced the Kangaroos, a 12-28
defeat in the Centenary test at the Sydney Cricket Ground when
Stephen Kearney and Bennett took the coaching reins for the first
A woeful first half, when the Kiwis trailed 0-20 in as many
minutes, was followed by an impressive second spell when they had
the better of the hosts.
It stretched the Kangaroos’ winning streak against the Kiwis to
seven matches since the men in black stormed to a 24-0 victory over
former Australian coach Bennett’s side in the 2005 Tri-Nations
Cayless said Kearney and Bennett had already laid down the law to
the 24-man squad in recent days as they limbered up with an
impressive 56-8 win over Tonga before crossing the Tasman.
With footballing hi-jinks a regular source of news, the Kiwis had
set the bar high to ensure no slip-ups off the field as they build
to the November 22 final in Brisbane.
“There’s a few things we came up with as a group. It’s the
identity of the team, we want to be seen as a professional team and
it’s about setting standards for the future,” Cayless said.
“Stephen (Kearney) was very disciplined when he was a player,
very professional, and he’s brought that over to his coaching.
“There’s been a bit of a change, but it’s a good change.
“It’s about being on time, not being disrespectful to your
teammates by making them wait, and things like not wearing hats
“They’re little things but it all adds up to us looking like a
team and we’re all professional and have respect for the people
Cayless said there hadn’t been a team alcohol ban, but the
responsibility was on the individual.
“We’ve made it clear we’re not here for a holiday. We’re here to
do something special.”
The Kiwis will be better prepared after a fortnight in camp,
although key forwards Roy Asotasi (pectoral), Frank Pritchard
(shoulder) and rugby code switcher Sonny Bill Williams are big
losses from the May test.
Partially offsetting that is the return of in-form five-eighth
Benji Marshall who will partner Thomas Leuluai in the halves.
Cayless said their combination was the most pleasing aspect of
the Tonga match, and said Bennett’s input could bring the best out
of the whiz kid from Whakatane.
“(Bennett) hasn’t had much time to work with Benji but he’s a
guy that can instill players with a lot of confidence.
“He’s shown us why he’s been so successful as a coach because he
gets players believing in themselves. He’s very clear on what he
expects, very direct, there’s no confusion.”
The Kiwis will train at Marshall’s Wests Tigers base at former
test rugby venue Concord Oval all week, with Kearney scheduled to
name his team tomorrow.