League: NZRL appointment for Wiki

Kiwis great Ruben Wiki will flex his muscles in the world of officialdom after being named New Zealand Rugby League's (NZRL) national high performance manager today.

NZRL chief executive Jim Doyle said former prop Wiki, who turned 37 yesterday, had been signed to fill the vacancy created by Tony Kemp's appointment late last year to the new role of football manager.

"It's hugely exciting for us and a tremendous boost for the game that a man of Ruben's standing is now involved in such a key role," Doyle said.

"He has done so much as one of rugby league's greats for both his country and the clubs he has played for. Now he's in a position to make a positive contribution to the game's future.

"As high performance manager, Ruben will also have a vital role in the Kiwis' management team."

Wiki ended his international playing days in 2006 after a world record 55 tests, including 18 as Kiwis captain. He finished his playing career at the end of the 2008 season after accumulating 312 National Rugby Legue appearances for the Canberra Raiders and the Warriors, easily the most in the competition by a New Zealander.

After working as a trainer for the Kiwis in 2008, including their successful Rugby League World Cup campaign, he pursued a range of other projects last year.

"It was good for me to have a break away from the game last year but I'm right back into it and it feels really good," Wiki said.

"I've been really excited working with the boys at the Warriors and now it's a real privilege to be able to work with the NZRL and do all I can to help our great game at all levels.

"I loved playing the game and I have always really enjoyed working in the community. That's a big part of it, trying to give something back to people and helping them to achieve things they didn't think were possible."

Kemp said Wiki's appointment rounded out a football department which could now set about the task of delivering on the NZRL's strategy.

"Ruben has incredible mana throughout the community and he also has amazing enthusiasm and passion to bring out the best in people in every walk of life," he said.

"He's going to be invaluable for us as we set about reviving the game at grass roots level and he'll also be able to make a great contribution to our elite teams, especially the Kiwis, as he showed during the World Cup."

Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney echoed Kemp's views.

"I was very fortunate to play most of my test career alongside Ruben and he was a wonderful player and an inspirational captain. He's held in the highest regard by players he played with and those he played against. Everyone respects him," he said.

"That came across in his time as part of our management team in 2008, especially at the World Cup where he had a tremendous influence on the players."

Wiki will being in his new role early next month.

- NZPA

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