Rugby league: Kiwi Ferns coach Ricky Henry excited by future of women's game in preparation for World Cup

Fresh off being reappointed as coach of NZ Kiwi Ferns, Ricky Henry is excited about the future of his side and the women's game as a whole, as they build to the next World Cup in 2025. 

The Ferns made the final in last year's showpiece, but the gulf in class between them and champions Australia shone through as they were well beaten 54-4 at Old Trafford. 

Henry though takes heart from his side's progress in a brutal tournament, with four-day turnarounds between games and a squad that had some players who weren't playing NRLW at the time. 

"With our squad, I think the average age was only 23 so we've got a lot of years ahead of us," Henry told Newshub. 

"We've just got to make sure we're really developing them so they become the best in their positions and help us win the World Cup." 

Henry sees the growth of NRLW and ensuring New Zealand players are immersed in those environments is a vital next step in their quest to win a World Cup title. 

The competition is set to grow exponentially from this season and beyond, with more teams, more games, and better pay. 

"The more games they can play at that level, the better prepared they'll be when they play for us," Henry explained.

"This is where there's a bit of credit given to the ladies who were part of our squad; not all of them were NRLW players, but they really embraced what was required.

 "We had a really strong staff who had some good planning, with (strength and conditioning), sports science, and analysis and that stuff they were learning that as they were in camp. 

"You take your hat off to them but we can't afford to do that. We need players who have been exposed to that professionalism so we're not spending time getting players ready in the tournament." 

The NRLW season will be bigger and better than ever this year, and Henry says Ferns players getting exposed to the competition will be massively beneficial. 

Looking back, Henry reflects on last year's World Cup with positivity, knowing his squad will take plenty of valuable lessons from the experience. 

"Nothing beats experience," he said. "Once you been through it you know some of the pitfalls, the things you did well and you take that into another opportunity hopefully when we get to France. 

"I just think preparing ourselves better mentally, physically, and educating them on some of their football IQ is really important.

"They'll learn their trade and be better professionals in the next World Cup." 

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