5 April 2023
The New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) board has today announced that Kiwis’ Head Coach, Michael Maguire and Kiwi Ferns’ Head Coach, Ricky Henry, will remain in their positions through the 2025 World Cup.
NZRL recently concluded its 2022 Rugby League World Cup (RLWC) debrief, where both Maguire and Henry’s roles as Head Coaches have been extended, with the board confident they are the right people to lead New Zealand to victory come 2025.
In addition, NZRL has identified key areas where further support is needed to ensure success in the next campaign.
“Overall, there were many positives to take away from both campaigns,” says NZRL CEO Greg Peters.
“However, we recognise where NZRL has to provide further support to put us in the best position to be victorious in 2025.”
Improved depth, a culture change, and evident growth since 2017 were all positive talking points in the RLWC debrief.
“Since Michael came on board, NZRL and the Kiwi playing group have made significant strides since their last World Cup appearance,” says Peters.
“No doubt the semi-final heartbreak still stings, but the growth the squad has experienced under Michael gives the board confidence he is the coach to lead the Kiwis to victory in 2025.”
“The board has the same confidence in Ricky”, Peters adds.
“He has done great work with the Ferns. Despite one of our more inexperienced world cup squads, nearly defeating the Jillaroos in pool play and a convincing win over England in the semi-final are positive takeaways.
“Of course, we were all disappointed in the final result; however, with increased support from NZRL, the board is confident Ricky remains the right man for the job.”
Henry is grateful for the continued opportunity and is determined to nurture New Zealand’s pathways.
“It’s an exciting time to be involved in women’s rugby league and a privilege to lead the Kiwi Ferns through to 2025,” says Henry.
“The women’s game is evolving rapidly, and I’m determined to create the best pathways to nurture and develop New Zealand’s female talent. My focus will be getting us back to number 1 in the world and bringing that World Cup trophy back home to New Zealand.”
Maguire remains confident in the direction and progress of the Kiwi team, with his eyes set on victory in 2025.
“We have achieved enormous growth since 2017,” says Maguire.
“To be only inches away from the final still hurts; however, this playing group is more determined than ever to take home a World Cup for themselves, their families and their country.
“There is a strong culture among the boys, the passion for the Black and White jersey is undeniable, couple that with the exciting talent coming through, we’re in a positive place.”
“No doubt, there’s unfinished business,” adds Maguire.
“Thank you to the NZRL Board for continuing their faith in me as Head Coach. It’s a privilege to coach this Kiwi team, and I’m confident in what we can achieve over the next three years.”
NZRL CEO Greg Peters emphasises the need for regular international programmes.
“The lead-up to the 2022 campaign was heavily disrupted due to Covid, with New Zealand not playing Australia since 2019. The added delay of the 2021 tournament means there’s only a two-year window before the next RLWC.”
“Consistency and yearly international programmes have never been more important,” he adds.
“We need an annual end-of-year International competition with regular Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns Tests that become permanent fixtures in the rugby league calendar.
“We’re working closely with the NRL and IRL to flesh out what this looks like and will be in a position to announce the 2023 International programme soon.”
As seen on NRL.com
They don’t know it yet, but on the other side of the world right now two infants are helping break new ground for the Kiwi Ferns.
Felix, the 13-month-old son of Kiwi Ferns fullback Apii Nicholls, and Jakari, the 10-month-old son of Test newcomer Shanice Parker, have been welcomed into the New Zealand camp for the Women’s World Cup as part of a new policy introduced by coach Ricky Henry.
Both boys flew to England with the squad and will stay with their mums – who each have a primary carer with them – for the entirety of the tournament, as the team embraces a new way to support the young mums in their ranks.
It’s an important step forward for New Zealand’s elite female players, with the Kiwi Ferns following a string of other women’s sporting sides and competitions, including New Zealand’s women’s Super Rugby Aupiki competition, who have adopted similar approaches in recent times.
For Nicholls and Parker, the new policy means they avoided having to decide between being separated from their kids for a month, or turning down the chance to represent their nation on the biggest stage in England.
After returning to the NRLW arena this year with the Titans, Nicholls said leaving Felix back home while she toured wasn’t an option.
“When Ricky asked if I was available, I was doubting myself. I had just got back to footy but I also had baby, and I wanted baby with me wherever I travelled,” Nicholls told NRL.com.
“I am so grateful that Ricky and the team were able to accommodate me having the baby here with me.”
For Newcastle Knights back Parker, it’s also presented her with a chance to make valuable memories with Jakari.
“It means everything to me to have baby in camp,” she said.
“I have thought about how special it is. I thought how cool it was to have baby alongside me through all the moments this year, including winning the NRLW GF, but nothing tops bringing baby to the World Cup.
“This will definitely be one to remember.”
Kiwi Ferns legend Honey Hireme told NRL.com she hopes it will eventually become an accepted part of women’s elite sport.
“That’s just how it should be, and the more sports that get on board with that and support their female athletes the better,” Hireme told NRL.com.
“It’s actually becoming the norm. You are seeing it in other codes now where female athletes can travel with their young babies.
“I think back to my first World Cup in 2003, which was in New Zealand, and we at times had a couple of kids who would come in and visit in camp, but they weren’t travelling alongside the team.
“It’s great for the current Kiwi Ferns to be able to take their babies along.”
Almost every sports team in the world, no matter the code, will tell you that the concept of family is an integral part of their values, and the Kiwi Ferns are no exception.
In making this decision, Henry wants it to be known that those ideas are more than just words.
“We are all about family and want to make sure we keep the camp environment as close as possible to when we are at home,” Henry told NRL.com.
“We talk about family as one of our values, and we want to make sure that we cater for that as well.
“The game and the world is changing and we have to cater for these things.”
At the end of the day, the Kiwi Ferns core focus is on winning the World Cup.
While every mum will feel and react differently to it, there is little doubt that being separated from young children, who remain heavily dependent on their mums, for long periods is an unsettling experience for all involved.
With that in mind, Henry believes having Felix and Jakari nearby will help Nicholls and Parker prepare and perform better.
“We want to make sure that the baby is comfortable, but also that the mum is comfortable too,” Henry said.
“We think they can play their best football if they have their child there and have that peace of mind.
“If we can help players play their best football and feel content, that’s what we are aiming for.”
Parker said if Jakari was back home in Australia, there is no way her focus on the World Cup could be as strong as it is with him in camp.
“It just makes the whole experience so much easier, having them and a carer in camp with us so we aren’t stressing or missing them for a month.
“It means we are able to balance both being athlete and mum. Getting the best of both worlds.”