As a nation, New Zealand has never quite fulfilled its potential in rugby league World Cups over the past 50-odd years.

Perhaps it's because New Zealand Rugby League has never had a genuine superstar before - one who can dominate the sport for an extended period of time; one who proves he is comfortable in the company of the immortals of Australia and the legends of the English game.

Sure, there have been a handful of big names who must wait for sporadic tours to showcase their brilliance in country-on-country test series.

Perhaps this is why international coaches lament the sparse opportunities for their best players to shine at the top level and against the best in the world.


Usually the teams who excel year in year out are the vastly experienced Australians who get more hard football through their NRL and England with their Super League competition. Correcting this imbalance in the international playing structures and opportunities seems to be the long road to common sense.

But we have to be big boys going into these tournaments.

We should be prepared to stand up and shout from the rooftops that "the Kiwis are coming for you and we're into a huge contest with bucket loads of intimidation and a number of arguably the world's top players".

Instead, the word coming back from England is that "Kiwi coach Stephen Kearney is wary of expecting too much from his most high profile player (Sonny Bill Williams), that he hasn't played in a Kiwi jersey in five years so needs to come to grips with the Kiwis' structures and what they're about ..."

Sonny Bill is lauded as the world's best league player (and you can add rugby player to that.) Let him take some heat for his brilliance and take some of the pressure from his team-mates as they kick off to defend the World Cup.

Let him and world-class tough guy Jared Waerea-Hargreaves throw the gauntlet down to the opposition.

Hargreaves thrives on challenges and looks like he is prepared to walk through the dressing room wall to get on to the field.

Let him and SBW rampage across what promises to be a sensational three weeks of rugby league. It's time and the Kiwis look ready; there are a number of them who look primed for a red-hot physical contest.

The heat should be on the big men, not just to meet the challenges of England and Australia but to dominate them.

As the Aussies say: "You don't defend a World Cup - you have to go out and win it again".

This is not only going to require brilliance of SBW, Hargreaves and co leading from the front but also the skill of the Kiwi halves as playmakers in giving them space and time.

It will also need the world's best dummy half, Issac Luke, to provide the link he has delivered for South Sydney all year.

I can't wait.