Year-ender: NZ sides fail to fire when it matters

17:20, Dec 28 2013
Kiwis at the Rugby League World Cup
Sonny Bill Williams makes a charge against Samoa.
Kiwis at the Rugby League World Cup
Isaac Luke makes a break for New Zealand.
Kiwis at the Rugby League World Cup
Samoa's Anthony Milford is tackled by Bryson Goodwin, right, and Manu Vatuvei.
Kiwis at the Rugby League World Cup
Key playmaker Shaun Johnson looks to ignite another Kiwi attack.
Shaun Johnson
Shaun Johnson takes a shot at goal during the victory over France.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
Kiwis wing Roger Tuivasa-Sheck attempts to skip out of a French tackle.
Bryson Goodwin
Bryson Goodwin dives over for a try in the Kiwis' 48-0 rout of France.
Kiwis haka
New Zealand players perform the haka before taking on France.
Kiwis vs France
The French and New Zealand sides line up for the anthems.
Manu Vatuvei
Manu Vatuvei doesn't like being out-done by team mate Sonny Bill Williams.
Sonny Bill Williams
Sonny Bill Williams dances past would-be Papua New Guinea tacklers.
Kiwis Haka
The Kiwis perform their haka before going into battle against Papua New Guinea in pool play at the World Cup.
Sam Kasiano
Sam Kasiano barrels through the Papua New Guinean defence during the Kiwis' 56-10 rout.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
Two-try scorer Roger Tuivasa-Sheck tries to step England's Sean O'Loughlin.
Kevin Locke
Kiwis fullback Kevin Locke gets caught between four English defenders.
Shaun Johnson
Shaun Johnson takes a first half kick at goal.
Ryan Hall
England wing Ryan Hall is taken by Kiwis Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Dean Whare.
Brett Ferres
England's Brett Ferres is tackled by Shaun Johnson and another Kiwis defender.
Kiwis haka
The Kiwis perform the haka ahead of their semifinal against England.
Shaun Johnson
Kiwis players pile on Shaun Johnson after his match-trying try, before he converted to send New Zealand into the Rugby League World Cup final.
Shaun Johnson
Shaun Johnson dives over to score in the last minute to rescue the Kiwis.
Shaun Johnson
Shaun Johnson leaps into the arms of team-mates after his match-winning conversion.
Issac Luke
Issac Luke leaps in the air in celebration as Shaun Johnson (No 7) and other Kiwis players raise their arms after Johnson's match-winning conversion.
Manu Vatuvei
Kiwis wing Manu Vatuvei is lifted off the ground in the tackle of Jarryd Hayne.
Billy Slater
Billy Slater scores the first try of the final in the tackle of Dean Whare.
Issac Luke
Kiwis hooker Issac Luke is scragged by Australians Paul Gallen and Cameron Smith.
Cooper Cronk
After being denied earlier, Cooper Cronk dives over for a first half try.
Sonny Bill Williams
Sonny Bill Williams looks up at a sorry-looking scoreboard.
Greg Inglis and Kevin Locke
Kiwis fullback Kevin Locke mishandles the high kick under pressure from Greg Inglis.
Jarryd Hayne and Manu Vatuvei
Jarryd Hayne and Manu Vatuvei compete for a high kick out wide.
Dejected Kiwis
Dejected Kiwis players (from left) Sonny Bill Williams, Dean Whare and Kieran Foran.
Simon Mannering
Kiwis captain Simon Mannering is fended in the face by Paul Gallen.

It was another bumper year of rugby league which naturally climaxed with the Rugby League World Cup final at Old Trafford. Or should that be anticlimaxed, as far as New Zealand were concerned.

Overall, it was a successful tournament with packed out stadia and mostly competitive games throughout. Minnow nations such as Italy, the United States and Scotland impressed, while countries like Samoa, Tonga, France and Wales, who traditionally sit underneath the three powerhouses had poor tournaments.

England were rocked by off-field sagas throughout their campaign, from the dumping of Gareth Hock before the tournament began for breaking rules to go out drinking and then sleeping in the next day - to Rangi Chase walking out on the team ahead of their semifinal against the Kiwis.

For the Kiwis, though, this tournament will be remembered for two reasons; firstly that stunning win against England where Johnson scored a try with 20 seconds left on the clock and then kicked the conversion for the 20-18 victory and, secondly, for being embarrassed in the final 34-2 by Australia.

Certainly, it was a special Kangaroos side that played in the World Cup and there are a number of players in their side who will end up on the Immortals list.

To have any chance of winning the final the Kiwis had to be at their absolute best and they were far from it. Their key players needed to step up, while Williams had to have a huge impact.

As it was, most of the senior players went missing and Williams found himself trying to hard to make something happen.

Ultimately the campaign to defend their world champion status ended in disappointment, but there are enough players in the squad in their early 20s to feel optimistic about what might happen in four years' time.

For the Chinese, 2017 is the next year of the rooster, but in the NRL it came four years early as the Sydney-based Roosters dominated the 2013 competition, taking out the minor premiership and winning the grand final.

From a New Zealand point of view it's notable that it was the Kiwis Sonny Bill Williams, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves who all stood out as the team's best players.

In the case of Tuivasa-Sheck, 2013 was a season where he not only became a star at his club, but was also voted the NRL's best winger and then the world's best winger at the international awards. But this is just the beginning of what should be an incredible career for the 20-year-old.

Williams, though, took out the ultimate prize and was awarded International Player of the Year.

His comeback to league after a five-year absence was remarkable, yet for a player as talented as him, also predictable. Playing back in the forwards, his offloads were even more devastating than they were in rugby, while he is able to read a game and organise a defence better than ever before.

In the grand final the Roosters beat Manly Sea Eagles 26-18, but despite being on the losing side Sea Eagles halfback Daly Cherry-Evans picked up the man of the match award.

For the Warriors it was the epitome of an up and down season.

They won just two of their first 10 games, with their 62-6 defeat to the Panthers in round 10 being the biggest loss in the club's history.

Seven wins from eight games followed to get the Warriors back in the hunt for a place in the top eight, but disappointingly, when it mattered the most they went flat again.

Warriors coach Matt Elliott would have just about earned a pass mark from the campaign, but that's mainly due to the fact that this was a squad he inherited, rather than created.

Next year there won't be any ready-made excuses, especially as they have broken the world record for a transfer fee in spending a reported $1 million to bring in Sam Tomkins from Wigan.

Players like Ngani Laumape, Glen Fisiiahi, Konrad Hurrell and Suia Matagi all confirmed their status as exciting prospects. Simon Mannering, Thomas Leuluai and Jacob Lillyman impressed, but Shaun Johnson, Kevin Locke and Feleti Mateo frustrated with erratic performances.

The deciding game in the State of Origin series was a 12-10 nailbiting win for Queensland, played in front of 83,813 spectators at Stadium Australia, the biggest crowd at the venue since its reconfiguration.

Domestically, the Akarana Falcons defeated Counties Manukau Stingrays 22-12 for their fourth straight New Zealand premiership title in October. 

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Warriors 2013
Shaun Johnson on the attack against the Eels.
Warriors 2013
Jacob Lillyman touches down in the Warriors opener against the Eels.
Warriors 2013
Manu Vatuvei absorbs two tackles from the Eels.
Warriors 2013
Ben Matulino on the run against the Eels.
Warriors 2013
Kevin Locke and Shaun Johnson look on after losing to the Roosters in round two.
Warriors 2013
Kevin Locke is tackled by former Warrior James Maloney.
Warriors 2013
Captain Simon Mannering gets caught in the tackle against the Roosters.
Warriors 2013
Sonny Bill Williams makes his return to Eden Park, this time for the Roosters against the Warriors.
warriors 2013
Elijah Taylor on the run against the Sharks.
warriors 2013
Dane Nielsen attempts to slip through a Sharks tackle.
warriors 2013
Thomas Leuluai gets through the tackle of the Sharks' Wade Graham.
warriors 2013
Pita Godinet gets a pass away against the Cowboys.
warriors 2013
Konrad Hurrell escapes the tackle of James Tamou of the Cowboys.
warriors 2013
Feleti Mateo congratulates Shaun Johnson on his try against the Cowboys.
warriors 2013
Nathan Friend prepares for the tackle against the Cowboys.
Warriors 2013 season
Ben Matulino of the Warriors dives over to score a try during the round five match with the Rabbitohs.
Warriors 2013 season
Manu Vatuvei tries to make the hard yards against the Rabbitohs.
Warriors 2013 season
Todd Lowrie spins a pass during the round five encounter with the Rabbitohs.
Warriors 2013 season
Ngani Laumape tries to make ground against a wall of Rabbitohs players.
Warriors 2013 season
Konrad Hurrell of the Warriors fends off Jarrod Croker of the Raiders during the round six clash between the sides.
Warriors 2013 season
Bill Tupou of the Warriors tries to grab a loose ball under pressure from Jarrod Croker of the Raiders.
Warriors 2013 season
Warrior Kevin Locke on the charge against the Canberra Raiders in round six.
Warriors 2013 season
Manu Vatuvei of the Warriors and Jack Wighton of the Raiders contest a high ball during their round six encounter.
Warriors 2013 season
Shaun Johnson of the Warriors makes a break against the Melbourne Storm in round seven.
Warriors 2013 season
Konrad Hurrell of the Warriors takes a hit against the Storm.
Warriors 2013 season
Shaun Johnson scores for the Warriors against the Storm.
Warriors 2013 season
Bill Tupou celebrates with teammates after scoring a try for the Warriors against the Storm.
Warriors
Feleti Mateo (right) celebrates his try against the Titans with Manu Vatuvei.
Warriors
Manu Vatuvei chases the ball into the in-goal.
Warriors
Kevin Locke takes on the Titans defence.
Warriors
Russell Packer charges ahead for the Warriors against the Titans.
Warriors 2013 season
Sam Kasiano of the Bulldogs makes little ground against the Warriors' defence.
Warriors 2013 season
Thomas Leuluai scores for the Warriors against the Bulldogs at Westpac stadium in Wellington.
Warriors 2013 season
The Warriors' Manu Vatuvei and Bulldog Sam Perrett contest for a high ball.
Warriors 2013 season
Manu Vatuvei celebrates with Todd Lowrie after scoring the Warriors' first try against the Bulldogs in Wellington.
Warriors 2013 Season
Warriors coach Matthew Elliott arrives at Mt Smart Stadium for an emergency meeting after the team's hammering by the Panthers.
Warriors 2013  season
Warrior Kevin Locke arrives at Mt Smart Stadium for an emergency meeting after the team's hammering by the Panthers.
Warriors 2013 season
Warriors players arrive at Mt Smart Stadium for an emergency meeting after the team's hammering by the Panthers.
Warriors season 2013
Jordan Kahu of the Warriors blows a kiss to the fans as he celebrates a try against the Broncos.
Warriors season 2013
The Bronco's Josh Hoffman makes little ground against the Warriors.
Warriors season 2013
Shaun Johnson of the Warriors breaks away from the Bronco's defence.
Warriors season 2013
Konrad Hurrell touches down for the Warriors against the Broncos.
Warriors 2013 season gallery
Manu Vatuvei charges ahead against Manly.
Warriors 2013 season gallery
Konrad Hurrell beats the tackle of Manly's Brent Kite on his way to the tryline for the match-winning try.
Warriors 2013 season gallery
Manu Vatuvei leaves Manly's Daly Cherry-Evans in his wake.
Warriors 2013 season gallery
Warriors players (from left) Jacon Lillyman, Simon Mannering and Konrad Hurrell watch replays on the big screen as video refs consider a decision.
Warriors v Roosters
Elijah Taylor tries to fend off James Maloney during the Warriors' 23-12 win over the Roosters.
Warriors v Roosters
Glen Fisiiahi breaks away to score a try against the Roosters.
Warriors v Roosters
Sonny Bill Williams tries to escape the Warriors' tackle.
Warriors v Roosters
Thomas Leuluai gets the kick off as he is tackled by Sonny Bill Williams.
Warriors v Roosters
Anthony Minichello executes a try saving tackle on Ben Matulino.
Warriors gallery 2013
Glen Fisiiahi (left) and Konrad Hurrell celebrate the win over Brisbane Broncos.
Warriors gallery 2013
Feleti Mateo offloads in the tackle of a Brisbane Broncos player.
Warriors gallery 2013
Manu Vatuvei celebrates scoring the first against the Brisbane Broncos.
Warriors 2013 season
Kevin Locke is taken in the tackle of a Brisbane Broncos player.
Rabbitohs v Warriors
Konrad Hurrell attempts to break the Rabbitohs' defence in Perth.
Rabbitohs v Warriors
Thomas Leuluai makes a break during the Warriors' loss to the Rabbitohs.
Rabbitohs v Warriors
Isaac Luke of the Rabbitohs gets tackled by Feleti Mateo of the Warriors.
Rabbitohs v Warriors
Nathan Merritt of the Rabbitohs gets tackled by Elijah Taylor of the Warriors.
Shuan Johnson
Shaun Johnson high-fives captain Simon Mannering after his second half try, part of his 16-point haul in the 24-14 win over the Wests Tigers.
Kevin Locke
Kevin Locke runs straight into Kiwis team-mate Adam Blair during their match at Leichhardt Oval.
Elijah Taylor
Warriors forward Elijah Taylor is bent back in the tackle of three Wests Tigers players.
Shaun Johnson
Shaun Johnson scored two tries and kicked four conversions in the win at Leichhardt Oval.
Feleti Mateo
Warriors centre Feleti Mateo is tackled by Blake Ayshford.
Ben Matulino
Ben Matulino charges straight into the Wests Tigers defence.
Suaia Matagi
Suaia Matagi cops a forearm to the nose as he hits the ball up.
Warriors
Feleti Mateo of the Warriors charges forward against the Storm.
Warriors
Jacob Lillyman of the Warriors offloads to setup another attack.
Warriors
Cooper Cronk of the Melbourne Storm is brought down by strong Warriors defence.
Warriors v Sea Eagle
Manu Vatuvei reacts after the loss to the Sea Eagles.
Warriors v Sea Eagle
Kevin Locke chases down a loose ball during the Warriors' loss to the Sea Eagles.
Warriors v Sea Eagle
Ngani Laumape touches down for a try against the Sea Eagles.
Warriors v Sea Eagle
Shaun Johnson in action against the Sea Eagles.
Stephen Kearney
FUTURE UNCERTAIN: Stephen Kearney is welcome to reapply for his job as Kiwis coach.

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