WELLINGTON (AFP) – The New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) apologised yesterday for the petulant comments of some senior Kiwis after their shock World Cup exit.
Captain Adam Blair and coach David Kidwell criticised a perceived lack of public support when the Kiwis were dumped from the tournament in an embarrassing 4-2 loss to Fiji on Saturday.
Playmaker Shaun Johnson also hit out after the game, saying “everyone who doubted us – the fans, media – you’s got your way”.
NZRL chairman Reon Edwards said such comments were inappropriate and fans had a right to criticise the team, who entered the tournament as second favourites after Australia.
“I’d like to apologise to the league fans out there. I don’t think it was necessary or appropriate to make those comments,” he told Radio Sport.
“Our league fans wear their heart on their sleeve and they have every right to be disappointed and upset about that result.”
Edwards said he personally felt “sick to the stomach” over the Fiji loss, which followed a 28-22 defeat at the hands of Tonga the previous week.
“It’s a huge setback in terms of our plans for the Kiwis. We just need to go back to the drawing board,” he said.
Edwards declined to comment on the future of Kidwell, who has only two months left on his contract and said Sunday he was considering his future.
But he said the Kiwis needed “the best possible coach”, even if it meant scrapping a rule that only a New Zealander can hold the position.
“I think we’ll have to review that ruling,” Edwards said. “I’d certainly be keen to have the debate and the conversation.”
He said the Kiwis needed to win over disillusioned supporters with good on-field performances as they look toward the next World Cup.
“It will be a tough four years but we will rebuild,” he said.