Kiwi Ferns still hurting from 2013 defeat
The Kiwi Ferns will head into next year's Women's Rugby League World Cup as the number one ranked team on the planet, but for once, they won't be the defending champions.
Having won the first three World Cups, the New Zealanders were widely tipped to make it four in a row when they met the Australian Jillaroos in the 2013 final at Headingley having already beaten them earlier in the tournament.
But things didn't go to script as the Australian women upset their more fancied rivals 22-12 to stand on the dais for the first time in history as World Cup winners.
Speaking to NRL.com at the 2017 Women's Rugby League World Cup announcement in Sydney, Kiwi Ferns skipper Sarina Fiso explained how the pain of that defeat was still being felt across the ditch.
"That hurt, that really hurt, but we learnt a lot from that," she said.
"Since then we've made a lot of changes through the coaching staff and players as well.
"We've had a lot of new rookies come in and they've brought a lot more energy into the team and that's probably something that we needed. The coaching styles are different, but it's a good different. Our preparation will be hard but good for us."
The Kiwi Ferns have used several coaches in the past four years, with Rusty Matua replacing Lynley Tierney-Mani shortly after the World Cup, before Alan Jackson assumed the role in 2015.
It's a move that Fiso believes has worked wonders for the playing group who have been pushed to the limits by his new coaching staff.
While they've been tested physically and mentally, it's all been worth it for the Kiwi Ferns who won the Auckland Nines series this year as well as the Anzac Test.
"Our coaches took us to some really dark places to prepare for the most recent Test," Fiso revealed.
"We went to a place called Glover Park and that's apparently where all the Sevens teams go and they do something called 'spew your ring'.
"It's not a place for the faint hearted and we were thrashed running up hills the entire time we were there.
"That was really tough but it built a lot of character and it took a lot of character from our girls to get through it, and I think that's what our coaches want to see.
"If we can do that at training then it's not going to be such a fright when we have to do it playing against a really good side like the Jillaroos."
Having seen the effects of a rigorous campaign on the playing group, Fiso said she expected to go through something similar ahead of the 2017 tournament.
"It's something that we'll probably go through again in a few months to get us ready for the World Cup," she said.
"We want it really bad and we're prepared to work really hard for it. We've had our players buy-in so as players we take a lot more ownership of how we perform."