Mark Graham tells NZRL: 'I just want to help'
Former Kiwis tough nut Mark Graham wants to help the Kiwis win back some respect.
Graham, speaking to The Press from his home in Gladstone, Queensland, was disillusioned by the Kiwis' meek performance during their 34-2 loss to the Kangaroos in last weekend's World Cup final at Old Trafford.
The 58-year-old would love to talk to New Zealand Rugby League chairman Scott Carter about how he can assist the national team to win back some respect.
"As a supporter, and a die-hard Kiwi that has left parts of me all over the world for the cause of New Zealand rugby league, I would like to be asked," Graham, who captained the Kiwis in 18 of 29 tests before retiring in 1988, said.
"I think I have got some valid ideas. If they were going great, which I don't think they are, I could understand them not wanting to know. But I would certainly be asking me if I was them."
Graham, who drives massive bulldozers to shift coal for the Gladstone Ports Corporation and is an ex-Warriors head coach, believes the Kiwis have got enough talented players to be more of a threat to the Aussies.
In Stephen Kearney's first season in charge the Kiwis won the World Cup in 2008 but his sides have largely battled against the Aussies since that glorious day.
Although leaving Gladstone doesn't seem to appeal to Graham he believes his intellectual property could be of value.
"That's the thing, I don't want another job to do with rugby league. I don't want to steal anyone's job. I just want to help them. We have got the players. Let's not beat around the bush, I don't think anyone would be happy with those results."
Kearney's contract as head coach expired after the loss in Manchester and he is uncertain about whether he will re-apply.
Graham, who coached the local Gladstone team for four years, was reluctant to criticise Kearney but believed he had been given a good run and reckoned this was the NZRL's chance to make changes.
Despite being pleased with the passion displayed by men such as Simon Mannering and Sonny Bill Williams, the ex-forward was surprised by the Kiwis lack of fire.
When he watched the Jesse Bromwich cough-up possession soon after the opening whistle he was stunned the Kangaroos were allowed to physically impose themselves on their opponents.
"He lost the ball in the first set and then he gets barged by the opposition players. That's an all-in. It's a World Cup final - it's like 'you've dropped the ball, we've come in and given it to you and you've accepted it'."
Nowadays Graham considers himself fortunate to still have a functioning body after it took such a battering during his playing career.
Two years ago he had three vertebrae replaced when he suffered a horror neck injury at the hands of a physiotherapist. Three replacement discs were fused together and a "steel cage" put around them for extra protection.
"I went to the physio and he broke my neck. He (the physio) smashed a couple of vertebrae. The pain was unbelievable and I couldn't move my arm, I couldn't do anything with it.
"When I think about it, and how I used to smash myself up playing footy, I am actually going pretty good."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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