OPINION: We call it the "Kiwi Way" and it's the secret sauce that will see New Zealand win the next two rugby league world cups and come to dominate the international game in the coming years.
By the time you're reading this, the world cup final at Old Trafford in Manchester will be over. New Zealand will either be back-to-back champions or, should Australia get their way, runners-up.
But regardless of the result, it's only phase one of a master plan that has been painstakingly laid over the past two years in a hope the Kiwis finally live up to their potential and become world-beaters every time they take the field.
Sports organisations often plan everything in regards to their international teams around four-year world cup cycles.
That wasn't the way with this Kiwis team.
I left the New Zealand Rugby League earlier this year but before that was heavily involved in laying the foundations for the world cup campaign and beyond.
And while defending the title was obviously something we always aimed for, our vision at the NZRL was far more grandiose and long-sighted.
Along with former chief executive Jim Doyle some time ago, we came up with a concept called the "Kiwi Way".
Essentially, our idea was to introduce a high performance environment around the Kiwis that would allow them to perform at their peak in every test match.
We were tired of seeing talented New Zealand teams come together for campaigns and then fail to deliver on that promise like they did during the 2011 Four Nations, losing to England in Hull.
With $500,000 in high performance funding from Sport New Zealand ahead of the world cup, Jim and I set about developing a blueprint to totally overhaul the Kiwis setup.
That included things like hiring the best sports psychologist on the planet, Dr Pippa Grange, and recruiting leaders in the field of sports science.
We also set about reviewing failed tours to find out where things had gone wrong and went to the world's best organisations to discover what made them tick.
On top of that, we also decided we wanted to enact a culture change within the side.
We felt it was important to remind the group of men lucky enough to wear the black jersey about the legacy they could create and tell them about those who had come before them.
Inside the Kiwis camp, there is now a culture of real accountability and a huge emphasis placed on values.
Regardless of this morning's result, I can guarantee the days of amateurish Kiwis performances are over.
This is the start of a new era of New Zealand rugby league - an era, with any luck, where we become absolutely dominant.
The routine losses to Australia in the Anzac test are a thing of the past and our trans-Tasman rivals should be very worried about what the future holds for them.
Look ahead to the 2017 world cup. The Australian side will be missing stars such as Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk, Paul Gallen, Johnathan Thurston, who are all expected to be retired by then.
The Kiwis, meanwhile, will still have plenty of the same faces in their ranks.
In saying that, things are not yet perfect and there is still much work to do if the Kiwis are to become a genuine force to be reckoned with. In particular, the NZRL needs to get its coaching structure right going forward.
Stephen Kearney, who is off contract after today, has done a commendable job since coming on board back in 2008.
At the time, he took over a team from Gary Kemble that had lost comprehensively in three tests to England a year earlier.
Not long after, they were the world champions.
Kearney's is an impressive record. But the reality is that he is still only a part-time coach.
Jim and I, when we rolled out the "Kiwi Way", wanted a national coach to work for the NZRL fulltime and spend hours looking at players coming through, helping them grow into top Kiwis. We didn't just want someone turning up every once in a while and expecting to deliver strong performances.
If the Kiwis are to become this super team, they need someone in charge who devotes his life to them, 24-7.
That could be Kearney. But while he's working with the Broncos, it feels like that's asking too much.
In the coming days after this world cup, the NZRL will have some tough decisions to make around things like whether to renew the coach's contract.
Then again, making the tough decisions is what it sometimes takes to be the best in the world.
Watch this space. The Kiwis aren't done yet.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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