How did the Kiwis manage to get everything so wrong?

Kiwis backs Dallin Watene Zelezniak and Dean Whare react after losing to Fiji in their Rugby...
Kiwis backs Dallin Watene Zelezniak and Dean Whare react after losing to Fiji in their Rugby League World Cup quarterfinal. Photo: Getty Images
Comment: One does not want to flog a dead horse — and the Kiwis have well and truly arrived at the jellymeat factory — but the demise of the country’s national league team does raise an interesting question, writes Steve Hepburn.

How much do off-field issues affect a team’s performance on the field?

How does the competence of the chief executive back in the office in Auckland affect the poor decisions made on the field by some of the Kiwis in Wellington on Saturday night?

And looking at the other oval ball code, how much does the success of the All Blacks in the past few years have to do with Steve Tew?

It is a head-scratcher.

There are examples of both — where it has been chaos off the field while the side on it has done the business. Or everything has been going swimmingly off the field yet the team is losing continually on the pitch.

Manchester United has won 12 trophies since the Glazier family took over the club in 2005 despite the family reportedly mortgaging the club to buy it. Fans were up in arms, alternative clubs were set up but the success, by and large, continues for the Red Devils.

On the other hand, the Cincinnati Bengals American Football team has had one family owner for near on 50 years, the same coach for the past 14 years but has never won a Superbowl and has lost its last seven playoff games.

Like most things in sport there is no clear answer. Success off the field does lead to success on the field — sometimes. Failure off the field can lead to misery on it — sometimes.

But success and failure have  more to do with strong personalities.

Manchester United won titles after the Glaziers took over because the club had the best manager the game has ever seen in charge.

Look closer to home — the Highlanders bombed out in 2013 despite having all these so-called star players.

Two years later, the side won the title.

It got new players, its key players got way better, everyone  became a bit more humble and changed a few things round. But the coaching staff was still the same. As was the front office.

Tew is just like all of us — does most things right, gets the occasional thing wrong but diligently goes about his job.

And rugby has a fashion of not washing its dirty business in public.

Rugby though, in this country, has one advantage over every other sport in the Shaky Isles. It has unbelievable player depth. Good players can carry a poor management off the field.

League does not have that advantage.

That is its biggest issue. To be successful against the superpowers — that is Australia — New Zealand Rugby League had to have everyone swimming in the right direction — at top pace.

The problem with the Kiwis was they got nothing right. Everyone was paddling upstream, with different strokes and the head coach could not tell the butterfly from freestyle.

The depth of league in this country is shallow. It simply can not afford to have its best players on the sideline or defecting to other nations.

It needed to have everything right — the front office, the coaching staff and the playing personnel.

It could  not have got it more wrong if it had employed Groucho to run the sport, Chico to coach the team and Harpo to skipper the side.

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