David Kidwell admits the pain of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup will always be there, but the chastening experience has made him a better person and a superior coach.
He also doesn't hold any grudges, despite the scathing independent review which was highly critical of many aspects of the New Zealand Rugby League's planning and management of the campaign, and is happy to see the Kiwis "in a better place".
On Saturday Kidwell takes his first head coach role since his national tenure ended, in charge of the New Zealand Maori team against the Indigenous All Stars on the Gold Coast (10:10pm NZT).
It's not quite redemption for Kidwell, as it's only one game, but it's a start and continues the process of moving on from the World Cup, which was a disaster, on and off the field.
Kidwell had come into the role with high hopes in October 2016, after Stephen Kearney's move to the Warriors, but struggled with the steep learning curve.
Everything unravelled in 2017, beginning with the cocaine scandal in May that saw Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor banned, followed by the shock Tongan exodus on the eve of the World Cup, which deprived him of several key players.
Kidwell then got some selections wrong, saw his experiments with different training methods backfire and probably tried to change too much too fast, and the Kiwis lost to Tonga and Fiji in successive weeks.
"It did take me a while to get over it but luckily I picked myself off the floor," Kidwell told the Herald. "But you learn from your experiences and make sure you come back. I'm definitely a better coach and a better person. Everyone goes through the ups and downs, it's about making sure you have more ups than downs."
Kidwell is also philosophical about the review, which, while apportioning plenty of blame on the coach, also exposed some glaring issues with the high performance support provided to him.
"At the end of the day we have all learnt," said Kidwell. "Hopefully I've learnt and we have all moved on. I've talked with [Kiwis coach] Michael Maguire and had some catch ups. They are in a better place now, which is what you want to see."
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Kidwell took some time out after the World Cup – "a bit of self-reflection" - with plenty of family time.
But he was grateful to pick up an assistant role at Parramatta halfway through the 2018 season, with responsibilities for the forwards and defence since then.
He's loved being in camp with the Maori side, and wants them to make the most of their natural flair, with elements of control.
"I've told them to play what you see," said Kidwell. "If you see numbers down the short side, take it. If you want to offload the footy, go for it. But it's freedom within discipline. They've got the freedom, but need to be disciplined."
Like he did with the Kiwis, Kidwell is also emphasising culture and connection off the field.
"If you get it right off the field, you get it right on the field," said Kidwell. "Keep it nice and simple, give them a framework on attack and keep it nice and simple on defence. We all have our different systems in the NRL but it's about coming together being under one."
Feedback from Stacey Jones, who coached the Maori side last year, has helped him get the right balance in the lead up ( "he thought he trained them a bit too much") and Kidwell wants a fast, focussed start.
The team had an opposed session against the Burleigh Bears on Wednesday, before the captain's run on Friday.
They have been affected by several withdrawals - notably Benji Marshall and Nelson Asofa-Solomona - but have power and skills in the pack (Jesse Bromwich, Corey Harawira-Naera and Brandon Smith), flair in the backs (Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Kodi Nikorima and Dylan Walker) and the trump card of Kalyn Ponga in the No1 jersey.
"He's a very special player," said Kidwell of Ponga. "The way he holds himself around the camp – you can see he is a future leader. He will have opportunities to do what he does best, we'll have the right framework."