Richie Barnett on league

Opinion and analysis from former Kiwis captain Richie Barnett

Richie Barnett: Anzac test in frame but selectors seeking committed players

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The side lacks attacking weapons without Mateo (pictured), Hurrell and Ben Matulino and looks a little homogenous. Photo / Getty Images
The side lacks attacking weapons without Mateo (pictured), Hurrell and Ben Matulino and looks a little homogenous. Photo / Getty Images

The naming of the Kiwis side for the upcoming Anzac test looms as one of the most important in recent times.

We met as a selection group after the World Cup to discuss what worked and what didn't and it was decided we needed to plan more for the future and try to forecast how the side might look in four years for the next World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

It's a difficult balancing act, because we want results now and don't have a great record in the annual Anzac test. But we need to identify players now who can win us a World Cup in 2017 so some tough decisions will need to be made.

A big part of that is picking players who are committed and bring the right attitude so the culture is right within the team. We want players who hold the utmost respect for the jersey and those who came before them.

It's similar to how the All Blacks and Breakers have done things. Good people make good players but we can't always afford to leave out difficult customers because they can some-times be the most talented. It's about working with them and finding ways to get the best out of them while still fitting in with the ethos of the group.

We always have pretty robust dis-cussions when it comes to naming a side. Coach Stephen Kearney normally picks the side he thinks is best and we then debate the merits of that. If we can't reach a consensus about a player or position, it's normally put to a vote with the majority winning.

I'm a big believer in rewarding form and attitude more than past performances. There has to be accountability and a player's past exploits will take them only so far with me.

There are a number of New Zealand players this season who are making it very difficult for us not to pick them. I was a player once and sometimes when you had a really good year but still got overlooked it was really hard to take. It's our responsibility, as selectors, to make the right decisions.

There is some comfort in the fact a number of Kangaroos, those once-in-a-generation players, probably won't be around at the next World Cup but we can't sit back and wait and hope for success.

• I admire what new coach Andrew McFadden has already done at the Warriors and some of the decisions he has made.

The biggest two are around dropping Feleti Mateo and Konrad Hurrell, and I believe they are the right calls. Both are are unfit and not putting in enough effort.

Mateo, in particular, is way off and has gone back to the bad, old ways of his time at the Eels. He's hugely talented but lacks application and tires quite quickly. Hurrell is making good progress defensively but, because he's carrying so much weight, also fatigues quickly. He needs a fitness programme to shave the weight so the Warriors can get the best out of him.

The Warriors need the pair back soon because, not only are they reaching a critical stage in their season and a couple more losses now could see them out of the race for the playoffs but they also need players who can make a difference.

The side lacks attacking weapons without Mateo, Hurrell and Ben Matulino and looks a little homogenous.

- NZ Herald

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