The Auckland Rugby League is calling for the return of a strong domestic competition to arrest problems it says were at the heart of the Kiwis' World Cup failure.
A review into New Zealand's embarrassing quarter-final exit on home soil in November is being conducted by the New Zealand Rugby League but the ARL is adamant it doesn't go far enough.
General manager Greg Whaiapu says the sport is being let down by systemic issues at grass root levels, most notably the lack of a pathway for promising players.
Whaiapu laments the drain of junior talent to Australia, lured by contracts with NRL clubs or, often, the next level down.
His figures show that more than 3100 Kiwi players crossed the Tasman from 2013-16.
Most players are disappearing from the Auckland region, which boasts nearly 12,000 registered players - more than half the New Zealand total.
A robust, regional competition could cater for the best and most ambitious domestic players, he said.
Whaiapu pointed to the former Lion Red Cup (1994-96) and Bartercard Cup (2000-2007) competitions as sound semi-professional models which provided "immeasurable" benefit to the professional game.
Most of the best New Zealand players in the history of the Warriors NRL club came through that grounding, he said.
The ARL would be prepared to work with the NZRL to invest in such a competition, as well as bolstering the junior game.
"The on-field failures of the Kiwis cannot be viewed in isolation; we have to go back to root causes," Whaiapu said.
"In New Zealand there is a huge void in the pathway to professionalism and there is no level or quality of competition that prepares players for a professional career."