If perception is everything, the television footage from inside the Kiwis dressing room at halftime on Friday night wasn't a good look for coach David Kidwell.

As the cameras panned into the room, new assistant coach Steve McNamara was addressing the troops, exhorting them to lift themselves from a 24-0 deficit.

Meanwhile, Kidwell was in the corner with his head down, looking as if he wasn't sure what to do.

It may have just been an inopportune moment, but there is no doubt questions remain over the ability of Kidwell to get the best out of this Kiwis team.


As a fulltime coach, Kidwell has had more than five months to reflect on the Four Nations debacle last November, and come up with some revised strategies, game plans and tactics for the Kiwis.

But there wasn't much evidence of that on Friday night, best epitomised yet again by his strange use of Jason Taumalolo. The Cowboys lock is the most damaging runner in the game, bar none. The 2016 co-Dally M medallist has size, power and pace and was a match winner during the 2014 Four Nations but hasn't had the same impact under Kidwell.

The 23-year-old was over used again last night, playing the first 55 minutes without a break, which dulled his overall effectiveness. He was also constantly sent into heavy traffic up the middle, instead of being able to isolate defenders wider out.

It seems everyone in the league world - including the player himself - is a bit bemused by this.

"I'm not going to complain, everything we've done so far has been good but personally I like a bit of a free pass I guess to roam from edge to edge during the game," said Taumalolo. "But that's not my decision, that's totally up to the head coach and the role he wants me to play."

Taumalolo said the players were backing Kidwell, but added that Cowboys coach Paul Green would be a "massive help" if he is brought into the Kiwis fold as an assistant.

The Kiwis certainly need some new ideas. Kidwell seems to be encouraging a highly-structured Melbourne Storm style game, and there was barely any second phase play or offloads, especially in the first half. That's not the recipe to topple the Kangaroos; you'll never beat the masters at their own game.

Kidwell's interchange strategy also needs work. It was a weakness during the Four Nations and he was again out thought by the Australians on Friday, who timed their replacements to perfection, especially in the first half when a trio of new men took advantage of some tiring Kiwis.

Kidwell survived the review into the Four Nations, and it's unlikely the New Zealand Rugby League would make any significant alterations just months out from a World Cup on home soil.

Asked why the public should continue to have trust in Kidwell, NZRL boss Alex Hayton at first paused before explaining how tough the challenge was facing any coach.

"If you look at the track records of a lot of Kiwis coaches over the years, Australia is the benchmark and it is a hard ask," Hayton told Newstalk ZB's Tony Veitch. "When we're playing Australia, it's like in rugby union for everyone else playing the All Blacks.

"I think there was a step up in the performance and where we're at. There's still room for improvement obviously, because we didn't get the result we wanted. We'll now work towards the World Cup and, hopefully when we meet them, we'll get the result that we want then."

Hayton was also content with the make-up of the coaching staff, saying Kidwell already had enough support without someone such as Green being introduced.

"We've got Shane Richardson and Steve McNamara in there, and they both bring a lot of experience to the team. Not just to David, but the players. So we are building a structure to get us the performance that we want."