Kiwis set for tour cash boost
Battling New Zealand Rugby League is on the verge of a much needed cash injection as reward for risking the Kiwis tour of Britain – regardless of whether the series against England is lost on Saturday.
New Zealand was unable to send a team to the Commonwealth Games Nines or a Schoolboys international in recent times because of money problems but still accepted an invitation for the current tour, which reaches London's Olympic Stadium for the Second Test this weekend.
Players are on considerably less than the $20,000 each they pocketed for beating Australia in the 2015 Anzac Test.
But even though the Baskerville Shield is on the verge of being lost again, near full houses at all three internationals are set to trigger a financial bonus to the Auckland-based administration.
"From the commercial aspect it is under-written by the RFL. That's all locked in the bank," NZRL performance director Brent Gemmell told NRL.com at the team's Olympic Stadium captain's run on Friday.
"If the tour is successful from the RFL stance, I think there's some sort of monetary allowance there as well but that's not my area."
And the tour has been a success. The 49,000 capacity at Stratford is expected to be threatened if the weather is fine, with 45,000 pre-sold, while DW Stadium next Saturday is a 25,100 sellout.
"We are very happy with how everything has gone," tournament director John Dutton said. "The attendances have been good and the television viewing figures very encouraging indeed."
Players have done their part, too.
Gemmell explained: "The NRL negotiate RLPA rights with all the Australians which brought all our boys in.
"You lie in the bed you made. There is a little bit more money for playing in an Anzac Test but the guys are remunerated for being here and they've agreed to that and they are enjoying the trip.
"They don't lose any time off. When they get home they still get their standard six weeks stand-down as per the RLPA request.
"There's no sacrifice from that perspective and these guys enjoy each other's company."
On the field, there was a little match-eve argy-bargy about wrestling and slowing down the ruck.
Asked about the claims of Kiwis prop Ben Matulino that England did a better job of exploiting the one-referee system by slowing play down in Hull, England coach Steve McNamara said: "In the first 30 minutes, it certainly wasn't the case at all.
"We certainly couldn't get any breathing space. I thought the Australian style of wrestle (from) where all of those players play certainly came to the fore.
"We thought we were in a tough situation there and went about addressing that ourselves and managed to get some momentum in the game.
"There are a number of ways with the ball. You've got to support each other, you've got to carry the ball a bit stronger…
"If you don't do any of that, the southern hemisphere teams are very good at the wrestle on most occasions and that can put you in difficult situations."
Told of those comments, Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney said: "He works in the NRL, doesn't he, Steve Mac?
"It's a bit of tit for tat. The focus, from our point of view, that we needed to improve that area of the game.
"The English forwards did a wonderful job of playing fast in the second half. They caused us problems by getting quick play-the-balls.
"I'm sure we had a bigger problem than Steve in that area of the game."
While both coaches insisted they had no issue with Australian referee Gerard Sutton, both are understood to have met with him on match eve.
Each side trained at the stadium yesterday, with England prop Mike Cooper erasing any doubt over a knee injury.
Decathlete Daly Thompson presented the jumpers to the English players.
Kiwis co-captain Adam Blair said he had overcome a head-knock from last Sunday.
"There are steps in place to make sure you're alright and I passed that earlier in the week," he said.