One on one with the 'Little General'
The Warriors’ little general talks about his return to the NRL, how his side hopes to arrest their worrying form slump, and the possibility of a New Zealand Origin-style series. <b><br><br>Are you happy to be playing for the Warriors again?</b><br>For sure, I wouldn’t want to play for any other club. Last year I came home from France to retire and I was given the opportunity to work with the club, which was great. Then Ivan asked me if I wanted to have a year of playing, and look – it’s a great place. On and off the field they’ve certainly got things in place, particularly off the field, and on the field hopefully we can turn everything around.<br><br><b>Are you enjoying your return to top grade rugby league in the NRL and how is the body holding up?</b><br>It’s tough but I’m getting through it. It’s just been really frustrating that we haven’t been able to play how we want to play. It’s been a bit depressing at the moment but you have got to get through that.<br><br>It’s great to be back in the whole environment at the Warriors, being around with the boys and all those sort of things. Look, I’ve enjoyed it but it’s pretty depressing when you’re losing, that’s for sure.<br><br>I didn’t exactly miss that team atmosphere when I was retired. Last year I still really enjoyed myself. I saw coming back to play as something that was an opportunity I thought I might not get again.<br><br><b>Did your part-time coaching role with the Warriors last year help your transition back into playing?</b><br>It certainly made it a little bit easier that I knew all the players. There were not too many players still playing from when I was playing three years ago! <br><br>I had a little bit of an association with them last year through my coaching role. Knowing those guys certainly makes things a lot easier. I have played with Ivan Cleary in the past and that made it a lot easier in terms of working with the coach.<br><br><b>Have you adapted to Ivan now being the coach rather than just a team-mate?</b><br>Ivan has a tremendous work ethic and he is the one guy who is probably hurting the most out of everyone as far as the team is going. <br><br>I know after spending time with the players and talking to them that they know the coaching staff have done a terrific job and even though we are trying, we as players are letting things down at the moment.<br><br><b>The Warriors started the season well but are now on the end of a three-match losing streak; what is going wrong?</b><br>It’s really a confidence thing at the moment. We train really hard during the week and try and make sure we’ve got everything sorted out. I think at the moment the other teams are playing a lot better than us. <br><br>We really have to find that little bit of desperation that we really need at crucial times in games. It’s getting to be a real pressure point for everyone at the moment. We’ve just got to keep working as hard as we can. Ivan’s not afraid to drop players if they’re playing bad – and I think after the weekend’s performance he would have liked to have dropped everyone – but obviously he can’t do that.<br><br><b>A few weeks ago you played a series of intense, golden-point games; did that take a lot out of the team?</b><br>I’m not too sure… maybe it has. A lot of the guys were involved in the Test match as well but there are no real excuses for it. <br><br>We’re all professionals and know what we need to do. It’s just a matter of getting the mental side of things right with our attitude and all that. We need to get that right so things can improve.<br><br><b>The Warriors lost experience at the end of the year but made some good buys. Is this team good enough to get your season back on track?</b><br>Yeah definitely – that’s the disappointing thing about it. We know what we can do, it’s just really frustrating at the moment because we need to get some confidence back, find that win and then hopefully we can get on the front foot. <br><br>Certainly the disappointing thing about it is we have the personnel to do a really good job.<br><br><b>Has the game changed or evolved since you last played in the NRL?</b><br>It’s hard to say, really. I think the biggest difference is the two referees – and some of the players are even saying it’s different to last year because of the referees and other rules changes. <br><br>I went in with a bit of an open mind and not really expecting how it was going to turn out. It had been three years since I played in the NRL so it’s a bit of a tough thing to really assess.<br><br><b>As a former captain of the Kiwis are you excited about the future of New Zealand rugby league following the Kiwis’ World Cup victory?</b><br>For sure, without a doubt. If you look throughout the NRL competition, and especially in the Toyota Cup, there are a lot of young Kiwis coming through. It’s not only at the Warriors either, but in other teams and there seems to be a lot more depth in New Zealand rugby league than there probably was 10 years ago. <br><br>What the Kiwis did at the World Cup was unbelievable really. It’s just great for the game and hopefully we can continue down that path of beating off Australia on a regular basis and make international league the spectacle that it really deserves. It’d be great to get it back up to be on the same level, or above, State of Origin.<br><br><b>Is there enough talent from New Zealand now to justify the implementation of a State of Origin-style series for Kiwi players?</b><br>I’m not too sure. Maybe in a couple of years’ time it’s probably not likely, but looking ahead to 20 years’ time it could certainly be on the cards. <br><br>I think there is enough football played at the moment for that not to happen – but hey, you never know. I think it would be fantastic if something like that did come in. It certainly does sound pretty good if they get the strength in numbers to do something like that.<br><br><b>Do you think New Zealand Rugby League is in good hands with the Kiwi talent now present in the NRL?</b><br>I think Stephen Kearney needs to take a lot of credit for what he has done. Having Wayne Bennett involved last year was certainly a masterstroke on New Zealand Rugby League’s behalf. <br><br>Like I said, with Toyota Cup players coming in we’re going to see a lot more of these young Kiwis getting their chance soon and they will get a Kiwi jersey in coming years. What they did last year with the World Cup will sway a few numbers to play for New Zealand. State of Origin is pretty appealing to young guys in the NRL but a lot of players will now hopefully keep their allegiance with New Zealand.