Kiwis change their captain the nice way

DAVID LONG
Last updated 05:00 02/03/2013
Simon Mannering
Getty Images
NEW KIWIS CAPTAIN: Simon Mannering won't be ringing the changes when he officially takes charge as Kiwis captain.

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The difference between how NZ Cricket and New Zealand Rugby League handled the changing of their national captains couldn't be greater.

Every aspect of changing the Black Caps skipper from Ross Taylor to Brendon McCullum was an unmitigated disaster.

Like most New Zealanders, those in charge at the NZRL watched this PR car crash and were determined not to make the same mistake.

So Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney firstly told Benji Marshall that he'd lost the job and only then went to Simon Mannering to ask him if wanted to captain the side.

Kearney also spoke to the other leading candidate, Jeremy Smith, and explained his decision to him.

Then there was a day between announcing publicly the axing of Marshall and the announcement at a press conference of Mannering.

If there was a Halberg award for sports PR, the NZRL would have just won it.

"There was no way I was going to ask Simon if he wanted to be the captain without having spoke to Benji," Kearney said.

"I was up front with Benji right through the whole process. There were no shenanigans going on.

"The decision was what I thought was best for the team and the group moving forward and I was as honest as I could be with Benji and that's all we could do."

NZRL's high performance general manager, Tony Kemp, said once Kearney came to him saying he wanted to change captains, he was conscious of not making the same mistakes NZ Cricket did.

"The question of how other sports have handled this area was a major concern of ours," Kemp said.

"Transparency and being communicative right across the board has been ongoing for a number of months.

"You've got to take your hat off to Stephen in the courageous decision he's made, especially with someone like Benji who is such a high-profile player.

"It has been a tough time for Stephen this week, but he is supported by the high-performance team and also the organisation in making that decision."

While to some it may have seemed unnecessary for Kearney to speak to the veteran Kiwi Smith, Kearney felt it was important to keep another player who could have been seen as being in contention for the job in the loop.

"I spoke to Jeremy about it and I was always mindful that the decision I was making was for the long term," he said.

"It was to be in the best interest of the group moving forward, not just for 2013 but also 2014, 2015 and so on.

"Jeremy is 33 now and I'm sure he'll want to play forever. That didn't come into calculation but it made things a lot easier with Simon.

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"Benji and Jeremy remain important in what we do as a group, as are Kieran Foran and the other leadership guys around Simon."

Meanwhile, there have been news reports emanating out of Australia this week that Sonny Bill Williams could play for Samoa at the World Cup, with former Samoa and Kiwis centre Nigel Vagana trying to lure him into playing for the Pacific nation.

Kearney says he has discussed Williams' World Cup plans with the Roosters star recruit, but was giving out little information on it yesterday.

"I have spoken to Sonny and one thing I want to make clear is that Sonny just wants to play footy first, that's what he's focused on," said Kearney.

- Stuff

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