Michael Maguire isn't just tasked with bringing the Kiwis team back to its peak in his new coaching role - he has to resurrect a dying fan base.

Support for the Kiwis hit an all-time low in November when they fell to Fiji 4-2 in the Rugby League World Cup quarter-finals, just a week after falling to a Tonga side featuring former Kiwis Jason Taumalolo, David Fusitu'a and others.

Under the leadership of David Kidwell, the Kiwis fell from being competitive with Australia to early exiters in an alarmingly short amount of time.

The Kiwis had none of what made them appealing even when they were losing. The X-factor, the flair and the big hits were swept under the rug as the team played dour league that minimised the effectiveness of the likes of Shaun Johnson, Issac Luke and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.


The players and coaching staff got snippy towards the media and supporters, an unsurprising flow-on effect stemming from an inability to win.

Much like what we've seen with the turning on Andreas Heraf, New Zealand sports fans don't take kindly to losing. And when their team is losing without firing any shots the tension becomes palpable.

Maguire has a reputation as a hard-nosed coach. That style has reaped benefits in the form of an NRL Premiership with the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

The current Kiwis squad Maguire has picked is hard to draw many conclusions from, given the calibre of players missing.

You can rattle off some serious talent missing from Denver this weekend: Tuivasa-Sheck, Jordan Rapana, Johnson, Jesse and Kenny Bromwich, Adam Blair, Tohu Harris, Alex Glenn and Kevin Proctor, to name a few.

So the Kiwis will go in as serious underdogs against a fairly settled England squad.

However, this test could be the perfect opportunity to win back some of the fans they've lost over the last two years.

Players of the future in centre Esan Marsters, halves Te Maire Martin and Kodi Nikorima, barnstorming forwards Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Martin Taupau and a rejuvenated Luke shows there is plenty of light at the end of the tunnel.


There are, realistically, two ways the Kiwis can earn back their fans: winning or losing with flair.

Winning papers over pretty much everything and is a sure fire way to bring the supporters back in. The players they have available for them to become major movers.

Before New Zealand can think of being consistently pushing Australia, they need to make sure the players are passionate about the jersey they're pulling on.

Wins will help that.

Luckily for the Kiwis, they have flown relatively under the radar since the sheer smugness of Andreas Heraf and New Zealand Football has stolen all headlines.

Ten Football Ferns came forward with letters regarding the performance of head coach Heraf in his short but tenuous regime.

A disappointingly lacklustre 3-1 loss to Japan and subsequent insulting of New Zealand's talent stocks are the apparent straws that broke this arrogant camel's back.

NZF chief executive Andy Martin also has a lot to answer for.

In a press conference this week, Martin maintained he knew nothing of the major issues between the Football Ferns and Heraf until he saw the 13 letters of complaint given to him by the New Zealand Professional Footballers' Association on Monday evening.

This assertion is entirely unbelievable. These letters weren't the first incident that drew concern from inside and outside the camp.

A journalist called NZF to follow up on a player alleging bullying in the Football Ferns camp in March but was shut down.

He is culpable either way. If he knew about these incidents, his position is untenable given he did nothing to change what is clearly a troubled environment.

If he was blissfully unaware of what was happening under his nose, that's almost as bad.

It's bad enough the fans have had enough, players of Abby Erceg's quality have walked out the door and it isn't crazy to assume others will follow suit.

Neither Heraf or Martin should hold their positions if a player exodus is the other consequence. They might though and if that's the case, prepare for some dark days.