Cash boost for New Zealand Rugby League
The Kiwis' controversial World Cup flop has not deterred High Performance Sport New Zealand from ploughing $700,000 worth of funding into the code as the NZRL target the next tournament in 2017.
In a significant victory before Friday night's Anzac test at Sydney's Allianz Stadium, NZRL chief executive Phil Holden said the organisation had successfully applied for funding over the next two years, with the bulk of the support devoted to the national side's plans to avenge a humiliating 34-2 loss to Australia last November.
"It's significant because it's the first time we've ever had campaign support like that," he said, although HPSNZ did provide a one-off provision of $400,000 for the unsuccessful Cup defence in the UK, Ireland and France.
The Kiwis performance in an embarrassingly lopsided final was spotlighted after Fairfax Media revealed some players had used sedatives with energy drinks in a bid to aid recovery after the quarterfinal win over Scotland.
Those revelations did not adversely affect the NZRL's application although Holden would not reveal how much money the organisation sought.
"I think they were impressed with our strategy. Fundamentally it's a validation of us an organisation," Holden said.
He said the application included a review of the World Cup campaign that ended in the disastrous final at Manchester's Old Trafford.
"Clearly we have shared that with them. One of our values are integrity. We were very open, really honest with them in terms of (taking) a very hard look at that campaign ... where we thought the shortcomings were and what we needed to do differently.
"We were totally transparent with them," said Holden, who has never revealed the players' identities publicly.
Holden said the NZRL were working on initiatives before the funding was approved and high performance manager Tony Iro would refocus on that task following the test match.
"It's tremendously exciting, we can now build a plan. We put through a big wish list of things where they could support us," added Holden, who said domestic high performance programmes would not be overlooked while the Kiwis seek to end the Kangaroos' world domination.
Meanwhile, Holden defended selectors Stephen Kearney, Richie Barnett and Tawera Nikau who have been slammed in Australian media for naming six debutants in the squad while overlooking the Sydney Roosters' Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Shaun Kenny-Dowall.
"We back our selectors 100 per cent. They're hugely distinguished players in their own right. They're never going to pick anybody they didn't think was up to the standard - and can deliver.
"I don't think there's anything unique or special about the situation we're in right now.
"Our history is littered with injury, form, whatever it may be ...Olsen Filipaina was plucked from nowhere (in 1985) to be the stand-off for the Kiwis. That's our game."
He praised the efforts to promote the game, which include a A$25 ticket and black t-shirt and a designated seating area for Kiwis.
"They're really throwing everything at it," said Holden, who is optimistically hoping for a crowd of 25,000.