NZRL included in World Cup failure review

Alex Hayton, David Kidwell and Tawera Nikau at the Kiwis team selection before the World Cup....
Alex Hayton, David Kidwell and Tawera Nikau at the Kiwis team selection before the World Cup. Photo: Getty Images
The review into the failed Kiwis 2017 World Cup campaign will be significantly widened, also encompassing an examination of the state of the governing body.

As well as an analysis into how it went so wrong for the Kiwis, there will also be hard questions for the New Zealand Rugby League to answer.

Initially, it was expected that the NZRL would be leading the review, but the New Zealand Herald understands they will now be part of it.

The review will be led by the board, under new chairman Reon Edwards, but will be conducted by two independent appointees.

It's expected to start next week, and will take between a month and six weeks to complete.

The outcome and findings should be delivered by early January, before the decisions and appointments are made for the next World Cup cycle.

It's believed that all positions related to high performance at the NZRL will be re-considered, and all existing staff will have to re-apply for their positions.

NZRL CEO Alex Hayton's position will also be under the microscope.

Hayton has been with the NZRL for more than a decade - and is respected for his work as chief financial officer over many years - but has lost some allies on the board.

The Kiwis' performance at this World Cup was significantly worse than even their most pessimistic fans could have envisaged.

It was bad enough that they missed out on the semifinals for the first time since the tournament was relaunched in 1995.

But it was also the manner in which it happened. Losing to Tonga in Hamilton was disappointing, especially when they held a 16-2 lead with 33 minutes to play, but could almost be forgiven, given the personnel available to Mate Ma'a Tonga.

But the Kiwis' 4-2 loss to Fiji in Wellington was an inexplicable effort, especially as the Pacific team dominated that match, and had many more try scoring opportunities.

That result was put into sharp contrast after last Friday night, when the Kangaroos smashed Fiji 54-6. Even if Fiji had peaked the week before, it was still a major reality check around the strengths of the respective teams.

Beyond the Kiwis, there were other concerns around the tournament.

The World Cup was in New Zealand for the first time, and won't be held in this country again until at least 2029, with the 2021 tournament in England followed by North America hosting it four years later.

But NZRL did little, if anything, to leverage the commercial and marketing opportunities around the event.

As an example, there wasn't a single dinner or luncheon organized or facilitated by the NZRL to celebrate the World Cup.

It's a different market, but during the 2011 World Cup there were at least 10 corporate functions organized around the tournament.

The only function put on was before the Kiwis versus Samoa game at Mt Smart, which was organized by tournament ambassador Sir Peter Leitch.

There were also issues around distribution and availability of replica jerseys, which were hard to find in both Hamilton and Christchurch when the Kiwis had group games there.

The NZRL are always cash strapped — often relying on financial support from the NRL — but missed the opportunity to generate some revenue, as well as increasing interest in the tournament.

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