New Zealand Rugby League admits they failed David Kidwell

New Zealand Rugby League has admitted they failed David Kidwell by appointing an inexperienced head coach for the Rugby League World Cup. 

The Kiwis were dumped out of the tournament in the quarter-finals by Fiji, just a week after losing to Tonga in their final pool match.

Kidwell was at the end of some heavy criticism from both fans and the rugby legaue media for his sides early exit, but a review of the failed campaign has found the 40-year-old was set up to fail.

"The Kiwis' campaign was disadvantaged by the NZRL appointment of an inexperienced head coach (with potential nonetheless) who attempted to implement too much in a short space of time and treated the Rugby League World Cup like a 'Test' event instead of the pinnacle of the Kiwis four year calendar," a statement said. 

The report were conducted by leading sports lawyer Tim Castle and former Bulldogs and Netball New Zealand boss Raelene Castle.

Chairman Reon Edwards said a lack of high performance support for Kidwell was a major failing of the organisation.

"We have hit some lows over the last few months," Edwards told reporters in Auckland.

"The report is warts and all, it's an honest report. In some ways it is very confronting.

"There was a real lack of proven high performance ability and expertise.

"There was a failure of senior leadership to identify high performance programmes, problems and risks.

"New Zealand Rugby League let down the head coach by not providing a strategic high performance plan but at the same time, the head coach did not seek a plan from New Zealand Rugby League.

"We are very determined as a board and organisation to ensure the findings are implemented."

Left to right; Tim Castle, Reon Edwards and Hugh Martin at the press conference in Auckland.
Left to right; Tim Castle, Reon Edwards and Hugh Martin at the press conference in Auckland. Photo credit: Photosport

CEO Alex Hayton resigned last week, the first sign the NZRL was feeling the heat from the reviews findings.

Acting CEO, Hugh Martin told reporters the New Zealand Rugby League Board has handled review process with integrity.

"The way the board has handled this review has been exemplary in my opinion," Martin said.

"There has been no stone unturned and no signal at all to white wash anything."

Edwards has pledged that the NZRL will learn from their mistakes.

"We want to take this organisation into a new era with success and growth," he said.

"We want to treat this as a wakeup call.

"We see a lot of positives and a number of opportunities. We must move forward and work together over the next 12-months."

The Kiwis next play a Test match in June against England in Denver, USA.

An announcement on who will coach that side is expected next month, with Canberra Raiders legend Laurie Daley a front runner.

REVIEW PANEL RECOMMENDATIONS

1. Vastly improve and comprehensively document its "fit for purpose" High Performance Plans, Programmes and measures for success at the elite level and integrate them into the organisation. Weconsider that this Report must be factored into these steps. The High Performance Plans, Programmes and measures for success must, among other things, incorporate:

• a dedicated support structure with required expertise to ensure the Kiwis Head Coach and coaching staff have all the tools and support for desired Kiwis success in their international campaigns.

• a player relationship management policy and development plan to provide for strong player welfare and culture

• a comprehensive Risk/Opportunity Management Plan

• all such other policy and programme requirements of a quality High Performance Plan as distilled from the following recommendations and this Report.

2. Enhance its knowledge, expertise, understanding, leadership and capability at the high performance sport level, and at the CEO position. Document job descriptions and required essential skills for all relevant positions; and design and document all processes and procedures to achieve the enhancements described. These steps must also include a clear articulation of the arrangements to be put in place to provide full support for the Kiwis' Head Coach, including the vastly improved High Performance plans and programmes already referred to.

3. Change the current NZRL policy that the Kiwis' Head Coach must be a New Zealander; and open recruitment and appointment processes to ensure the best person for the position is appointed.

4. Review and update its current Player Selection Policy to better reflect the capabilities and qualities being sought for all positions in the Kiwis.

5. Develop a highly sensitive and efficient player communication programme and policy to facilitate ease of communications across the entire NZRL organisation, including its High Performance and coaching positions, with all elite players.

6. Develop genuine and enduring relationships between the entire NZRL organisation, including its High Performance and coaching positions, and all elite players, including potential elite players.

7. Review and update, or create as necessary, communications policies and plans with players and staff, Social Media Policy, Media Policy, Crisis Communications Policy, and Media Plan; and incorporate these policies and plans into the new improved High Performance Plan identified in Recommendation No. 1 above.

8. Review appropriate contractual arrangements for players which maintain the integrity of current eligibility rules, but provide the best prospect of player stability for the Kiwis.

9. Review the appropriateness and efficiency of its structure and organisation and make any necessary changes. In particular, but without limitation, we recommend that the NZRL consider recruiting on/in to its governance arrangements (including the Board) high performance sport expertise.

REVIEW PANEL HIGH LEVEL FINDINGS

1. A complete lack of proven high performance sport (HP) expertise within the NZRL organisation and the supporting structures that need to be put in place for sustained success.

2. A systemic failure of senior NZRL leadership to identify HP problems and inadequacies, and no obvious ability to identify and manage the risks arising.

3. The Kiwis' campaign was disadvantaged by the NZRL appointment of an inexperienced Head Coach (with potential nonetheless) who attempted to implement too much in a short space of time and treated the RLWC like a 'Test' event instead of the pinnacle of the Kiwis 4 year calendar.

4. NZRL let down Head Coach David Kidwell specifically in not providing him with the carefully and strategically designed 2014 – 2017 High Level Kiwis Campaign Plan. We record that in our view the Head Coach should have, upon his appointment asked for and insisted on being provided with that High Level Plan. David Kidwell acknowledged that indeed he should have done this but did not do so.

We consider that his failing in this regard was unsatisfactory. It does not however, in our view, excuse the failure of NZRL senior leadership to provide its Kiwis Head Coach with that High Level Plan.

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