The findings of the independent review into the Kiwis' failed World Cup campaign has found a lack of leadership and expertise across the NZRL organisation.
The review - led by sports lawyer Tim Castle and former Bulldogs and Netball New Zealand boss Raelene Castle - was charged with examining the Kiwis' ill-fated performance at last year's World Cup, which culminated in historic losses to Tonga and Fiji.
The findings were released today at Rugby League House in Auckland where review panellist Tim Castle, NZRL chairman Reon Edwards and NZRL acting CEO Hugh Martyn addressed the media.
As reported by the Herald yesterday, the review's findings highlighted a lack of direction and poor decision-making throughout the leadership structure at New Zealand Rugby League.
Castle identified the complete lack of proven high-performance sport expertise within the NZRL organisation as the most alarming findings of the review.
The damning findings were also particularly critical of NZRL in their appointment of head coach David Kidwell, who was deemed as inexperienced.
The findings also found that Kidwell attempted to implement too much in a short space of time and treated the World Cup as a test instead of the pinnacle of the Kiwis four-year calendar.
The status of David Kidwell as coach, who is currently out of contract with the Kiwis, remains up in the air but the report's findings is likely to end any chance of his reappointment.
"Disappointing as it was, the Kiwis 2017 loss could ultimately be for the best for the game," said NZRL Board Chair Reon Edwards. "This is a good wake-up call and an opportunity for a fresh start.
"While Tim and Raelene's report identifies very clearly where things went wrong, importantly they have provided the NZRL a solid framework to help us deliver on our high-performance requirements, improve our selection processes, enhance risk management, and ensure we vastly improve our planning and communication.
"We have already implemented the Review Panel recommendation to change the policy that the Kiwis' Head Coach must be a New Zealander, and next week we will announce the make up of the new selection panel.
REVIEW PANEL RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Vastly improve and comprehensively document its "fit for purpose"High-Performance Plans, Programmes and measures for success at the elite level and integrate them into the organisation. We consider that this Report must be factored into these steps. The High-Performance Plans, Programmes and measures for success must, among other things, incorporate:
• a dedicated support structure with required expertise to ensure the Kiwis Head Coach and coaching staff have all the tools and support for desired Kiwis success in their international campaigns.
• a player relationship management policy and development plan to provide for strong player welfare and culture
• a comprehensive Risk/Opportunity Management Plan
• all such other policy and programme requirements of a quality High-Performance Plan as distilled from the following recommendations and this Report.
2. Enhance its knowledge, expertise, understanding, leadership and capability at the high-performance sport level, and at the CEO position. Document job descriptions and required essential skills for all relevant positions; and design and document all processes and procedures to achieve the enhancements described. These steps must also include a clear articulation of the arrangements to be put in place to provide full support for the Kiwis' Head Coach, including the vastly improved High-Performance plans and programmes already referred to.
3. Change the current NZRL policy that the Kiwis' Head Coach must be a New Zealander; and open recruitment and appointment processes to ensure the best person for the position is appointed.
4. Review and update its current Player Selection Policy to better reflect the capabilities and qualities being sought for all positions in the Kiwis.
5. Develop a highly sensitive and efficient player communication programme and policy to facilitate ease of communications across the entire NZRL organisation, including its High Performance and coaching positions, with all elite players.
6. Develop genuine and enduring relationships between the entire NZRL organisation, including its High Performance and coaching positions, and all elite players, including potential elite players.
7. Review and update, or create as necessary, communications policies and plans with players and staff, Social Media Policy, Media Policy, Crisis Communications Policy, and Media Plan; and incorporate these policies and plans into the new improved High-Performance Plan identified in Recommendation No. 1 above.
8. Review appropriate contractual arrangements for players which maintain the integrity of current eligibility rules, but provide the best prospect of player stability for the Kiwis.
9. Review the appropriateness and efficiency of its structure and organisation and make any necessary changes. In particular, but without limitation, we recommend that the NZRL consider recruiting on/ into its governance arrangements (including the Board) high-performance sport expertise.
REVIEW PANEL HIGH-LEVEL FINDINGS
1. A complete lack of proven high-performance sport (HP) expertise within the NZRL organisation and the supporting structures that need to be put in place for sustained success.
2. A systemic failure of senior NZRL leadership to identify HP problems and inadequacies, and no obvious ability to identify and manage the risks arising.
3. The Kiwis' campaign was disadvantaged by the NZRL appointment of an inexperienced Head Coach (with potential nonetheless) who attempted to implement too much in a short space of time and treated the RLWC like a 'Test' event instead of the pinnacle of the Kiwis 4 year calendar.
4. NZRL let down Head Coach David Kidwell specifically in not providing him with the carefully and strategically designed 2014 – 2017 High-Level Kiwis Campaign Plan. We record that in our view the Head Coach should have, upon his appointment asked for and insisted on being provided with that High-Level Plan. David Kidwell acknowledged that indeed he should have done this but did not do so.
We consider that his failing in this regard was unsatisfactory. It does not, however, in our view, excuse the failure of NZRL senior leadership to provide its Kiwis Head Coach with that High-Level Plan.