Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Rugby League: Players to enjoy sights of 10 cities

Kiwis rugby league legend Mark Graham. Photo / Jason Oxenham.
Kiwis rugby league legend Mark Graham. Photo / Jason Oxenham.

For this Kiwis team, it's a case of have boots (and supplements, cones, balls, massage tables, GPS monitors, laptops, etc), will travel.

The current tour is a bit of a throwback to the grand ol' days of Kiwis' expeditions to the Northern Hemisphere, as the team will visit 10 cities and towns on this trip (assuming they make the final in Liverpool on November 21).

It's nothing like the marathon trip of 1980, when Ces Mountford's squad played 14 games in seven weeks - including one stretch of eight matches in 24 days.

"It was a big adventure for us," recalled captain Mark Graham last year. "Going to new places, playing in front of league-mad crowds. The footy was hard but we had a lot of fun. And we didn't have ice baths, protein shakes, recovery sessions ... but we got through."

They were different times but, by modern standards, this year's tour is on the adventurous side.

It's partly because organisers want to spread the gospel of league away from the traditional northern heartland in England - hence the games in Coventry and London - and partly a decision by Kiwis management.

After lessons from the 2013 World Cup and last year's tour of England, when players got bored after staying in one location for seven or eight days, there has been a deliberate attempt to break up this trip.

It means the Kiwis won't be staying in one place for more than three nights for the first three weeks of the tour, with only an extended six-day spell in Liverpool put aside if they make the final.

The itinerary has meant more time on buses - not always great from a sport science point of view, although the team's medical staff have carefully managed each journey.

There have also been some unexpected benefits, as old-fashioned card schools have sprung up on the bus. Different groups of players indulge in poker and other games, and the coaches and staff play euchre.

Autex - Proud sponsors of New Zealand rugby league since 1981.

- NZ Herald

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