It started back in 2005. A casual bloke by the name of Brian â€œBlueyâ€ McClennan took the Kiwis toÂ a Tri-Nations tournament in England and brought home some much overdue silverware. It was aÂ remarkable victory for the Kiwis who for decades have underperformed and have never quite livedÂ up to expectation.
Skip forward a few years and an emphatic World Cup win later under Stephen Kearney and theÂ Kiwis are really starting to make a name for themselves. Rugby in New Zealand took a dive afterÂ the All Blacks flopped in the quarter-finals against France in 2007 which led kids growing upÂ idolising Benji Marshall and wanting to play the other rugby. Rugby League.
Then the Kiwis did the unthinkable and made an unforgettable finish in their last set of six to winÂ the Four Nations tournament. Capping off a new beginning for them. Five tournaments played in six years, theÂ Kiwis had won three of them. Which lead the Kiwis and their loyal supporters to a period of whichÂ New Zealand league has never seen.
The development of league in New Zealand is slowly getting where it should be. Secondary schools have a national league competition held each year. Auckland and Wellington are twoÂ regions which do run a successful rugby league tournament for schools in the region.
Scouts areÂ becoming more and more frequent. Every NRL team is represented at the national tournamentÂ as well as some scouts from England too come to see the up and coming talent growing in NewÂ Zealand.
It was once a rare occurrence, having a New Zealand born player in an NRL team. The national sideÂ was mainly picked from mensâ€™ competitions around the country. Now, in 2011 there is almost theÂ same amount of Kiwis as there are Aussies.
Especially in teams such as South Sydney Rabbitohs,Â where thereâ€™s a big contingent of Kiwiâ€™s living. On the Gold Coast when the Warriors play, thereâ€™sÂ always a massive number of ex-pat Kiwis donning their black colours and getting behind theÂ Warriors. Sometimes the chants are louder then those of the home teamâ€™s fans.
Benji Marshall, West Tigers play-maker, Golden Boot 2010 winner and now face of the NRL. AÂ Kiwi proud of his Maori heritage is making the biggest of waves in the National Rugby League.Â People are growing tiresome of Rugby which seems to dominate the headlines regardless of theÂ success of League. To even think about a Kiwi being the face of an Australian competition isÂ bizarre, but itâ€™s a sign of the times.
What could be done differently though, is toÂ harness the success, and flow it through the veins of mainstream media. Time after time theÂ League results will get little or no mention at all on television and radio. Kids love the All Blacks,Â and kids now are learning to love the Kiwis.
Not to belittle other codes, but to give the kids growingÂ up an option. I was forced in to playing rugbyÂ union at a young age. There was Rugby, or Soccer. Yet Soccer in the late 90s was not on the grandÂ scale of what it is today in Australasia.
New Zealand has proven themselves at the international level. The New Zealand Warriors areÂ becoming more of an option to players. With the likes of superstar Feleti Mateo joining theÂ Warriors ranks this season, as well as veteran Australian Shaun Berrigan it shows that the WarriorsÂ are becoming more of a consistent franchise, and a team players want to play in.