David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

League: David Kidwell brushes off Mal Meninga's criticism

Kiwis coach David Kidwell. Photo / Photosport
Kiwis coach David Kidwell. Photo / Photosport

New Zealand test coach David Kidwell has brushed off accusations from Australian rival Mal Meninga that the Kiwis have failed to meet their obligations to promote tomorrow's Anzac test in Canberra.

Writing in his column for the Courier Mail titled 'Where the bloody hell are you?', Meninga slammed the Kiwis for staying out of the media spotlight in Sydney throughout the early part of the week before arriving in Canberra yesterday afternoon.

Kidwell says he followed the lead of his predecessor Stephen Kearney in keeping a low public profile and says the team's on-field performance has been his sole priority ahead of the GIO Stadium clash.

"That's something that you learn, you learn as you get in there, and I haven't had much time in the job so I thought this is the way it's done," Kidwell told Radio Sport.

"I looked at Stephen Kearney and that's the way he had done it so I thought that's the way you needed to be.

"But at the end of the day it's the performance on the field that we need to focus on and that's what you get judged on and that was my focus.

"A lot of my energy needs to go into the boys and make sure that they're right come Friday night."

Meninga's column comes after he and the Australian players were readily available to media on both sides of the ditch over the last week while the Kiwis have been reluctant to put themselves out there.

"Every day this week the Australian players have been out doing their bit to promote the game and international footy," wrote Meninga.

"The New Zealand players have been nowhere to be seen.

"While we are promoting the code in Canberra, a city that last week hosted an AFL match and is home to rugby union's Brumbies, the Kiwis have been in Sydney - under instruction from the New Zealand Rugby League - bunkering down and expecting us to do the work for the good of the game.

"The NZRL should remember they have a responsibility to the growth of the game, not just their own priorities.

"There is an onus on both teams to promote the match and the code, and to help re-energise the international game - especially in a World Cup year.

"We are doing our bit. So where are the Kiwis?"

Some of Meninga's frustrations have been shared by New Zealand media over the last fortnight, after repeated requests by the Herald to the NZRL for one-on-one interviews with Kidwell were denied.

The two teams contrasting approach to media relations was highlighted last week when Meninga happily agreed to talk after responding to an interview request through a text message.

Kidwell, who unlike Kearney holds a fulltime position as Kiwis coach, was also initially unwilling to speak to media after the New Zealand squad was announced on Sunday night before the NZRL changed tack and made him available via a telephone conference.

In the days since, media access has been limited to one press opportunity each day with one or two Kiwis players put up for brief interviews, but the majority of their star players have been kept out of the spotlight.

NZRL boss Alex Hayton defended the Kiwis decision to base themselves in Sydney and said players were shielded from media because of irrelevant questions from journalists chasing stories about NRL player transfers.

"We've done what we've usually done when we've had games in and around Sydney," said Hayton.

"Even with Newcastle last year, we assemble in Sydney first and have a couple of days here and then go up there.

"What we've been trying to do is get the balance right because there isn't a lot of time this week.

"And also, this season there is so much speculation because there is so many players coming off contract.

"We've had a couple of journos cut in and try and ask about what's happening at club level but this is about the test match not about club football."

Kidwell pointed out the Kiwis are going into this test looking to redeem themselves in the wake of last year's disappointing Four Nations campaign while Meninga's side are riding high after reclaiming the world's number one ranking.

"Mal's different," said Kidwell. "They've come off a successful campaign in the Four Nations.

"We've got a short preparation and so I'm here to win games and win the Anzac test on Friday night and that's my sole focus."

- NZ Herald

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