No Kiwis selected in Rugby League World XIII after horror campaign at World Cup

The poor results of this year continue to haunt the Kiwis with no players in the 2017 squad named in Rugby League World magazine's Team of the Year for the first time in six years.

Former Kiwi-turned-Tongan representative Jason Taumalolo earned his second consecutive selection from the UK-based magazine - he and Fijian winger Suliasi Vunivalu were the only two players in the World XIII selected from outside of Australia or England.

However Taumalolo was one of only two players in the team to receiver maximum votes from a judging panel made of 12 rugby league journalists to be selected for the team - Australian captain and hooker Cameron Smith was the other.

The decision to reject New Zealand for Tonga will have a huge impact in the future, Tony Kemp believes. Source: 1 NEWS

Australia dominated the line-up claiming eight spots in the 13 alongside three Englishman.

Veteran prop James Graham was one part of the trio, setting a record for English players with this being his ninth selection for the team.

He was joined by winger Jermaine McGillvary and centre Kallum Watkins while veteran Australian playmakers Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk also made the cut.

However, Rugby League World gave emphasis to the importance of Taumalolo and Vunivalu - the duo were the first players from tier two rugby league nations to make the team since Semi Radrada (Fiji) and Anthony Milford (Samoa) in 2015.

Prior to that, only two other tier two representatives had ever made the cut – Kieron Cunningham (Wales) in 2000 and Papua New Guinea's Adrian Lam in 1995.

World XIII

1 Billy Slater (Australia)
2 Jermaine McGillvary (England)
3 Will Chambers (Australia)
4 Kallum Watkins (England)
5 Suliasi Vunivalu (Fiji)
6 Michael Morgan (Australia)
7 Cooper Cronk (Australia)
8 James Graham (England)
9 Cameron Smith (Australia)
10 Aaron Woods (Australia)
11 Boyd Cordner (Australia)
12 Matt Gillett (Australia)
13 Jason Taumalolo (Tonga)

Tony Kemp says the problems in the Kiwis' camp extend far beyond the players and coach. Source: 1 NEWS


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Bromwich, Proctor 'turned adversity into strength' on Kiwis return, says coach

Eighteen months after Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor's illicit substance scandal threatened to kill off their Kiwis careers, Michael Maguire has highlighted them as representative of the side's rebuild.

At a time when New Zealand were being pegged as vulnerable and in danger of being usurped by Tonga, they produced a rousing 26-24 rugby league Test victory over Australia last night.

After a raft of representative retirements and missing the likes of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Issac Luke, the lightly-fancied Kiwis rolled the world champions for the first time in three years.

The Kiwis brand copped a black eye after Bromwich was stripped of the captaincy and he and Proctor were banished from the World Cup after being caught on CCTV snorting a substance off a drug dealer's phone after last year's Anzac Test.

Last night's game was their first back in Kiwis colours and coach Maguire said their ability to come back from a low point in their careers was representative of the character he wanted in his team.

"People like Kevin Proctor and Jesse Bromwich, they've faced adversity and what we saw, to come back in form the way they did," Maguire said.

"A lot of young kids, unfortunately, at some stage make a mistake and those two boys have definitely put their hands up and turned a bit of adversity into strength and where we want to be.

"Both of those boys performed very well."

Michael Maguire said he will consider the pair who were banned from the World Cup after allegedly trying to buy cocaine in May 2017. Source: 1 NEWS

Next Saturday's Test between Tonga and Australia at Mount Smart is already sold out, prompting fears the Mate Ma'a were winning the battles for the hearts and minds of the public in New Zealand.

But the likes of Joey Manu and Brandon Smith proved they were ready to be the faces of a new generation of Kiwis and there was light at the end of the tunnel.

New skipper Dallin Watene-Zelezniak - who put in an inspired performance against the Australians - said it was up to the side to rebuild their good standing.

"We came into camp to build foundations not only for us going forward but the Kiwis coming through and the kids after that," Watene-Zelezniak.

"We want to give this nation what they deserve.

"I can't really put it into words, we just came together."

Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor have both been recalled to the Kiwis' squad. Source: 1 NEWS


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Kangaroos wary of Mate Ma'a Tonga after loss to Kiwis - 'They think we're beatable'

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga concedes Tonga will be fancying their chances of knocking over Australia after the world champions' shock loss to New Zealand.

The Kangaroos' new era began with a 26-24 defeat to the Kiwis at Mt Smart Stadium, an outcome which indicated there are set to be some growing pains after farewelling some of Australia's all-time greats.

The Roos were toppled for the first time in 14 games and the Mate Ma'a will come into next Saturday's clash at the same venue spurred on by a sold-out 25,000-strong sea of red and white.

"We know what's coming. We know how committed they're going to be," Meninga said.

"We'll be ready for it physically and mentally ... I think they think we're beatable."

While Tonga are stacked with some of the best players in the world in Jason Taumalolo, Andrew Fifita and Tevita Pangai Jnr, a loss to a non-tier one nation would immediately place Meninga and his squad under immense pressure.

Team spirit in the Tongan camp is sky high, as the team welcomes their new assistant coach into the fold. Source: 1 NEWS

Meninga said we would resist the urge to make changes and bring in Reagan Campbell-Gillard or Tyrone Peachey after his side was beaten by the Kiwis for the first time Kiwis since 2015..

The 26-24 scoreline flattered the Australians after they ran in two late tries - scores that could not counter a glut of rudimentary errors.

"The papers tomorrow will be talking about how the Kangaroos are vulnerable," Meninga said.

"We're at a stage in our transition where we have a bit of work to do. But I can assure you we'll be ready for next week."

With Greg Inglis suspended and Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater having retired, the Kangaroos looked far from the dominant force which has reigned over the rugby league world for so long.

Smith's absence in particular was noticeable as the side at times lacked patience and composure at key moments.

New No.9 Damien Cook has been superb this year however he had to be substituted after 62 minutes after being targeted by the Kiwis' big men and forced to make 42 tackles.

Asked if the Kangaroos missed Smith and his 56 Tests of experience, new skipper Boyd Cordner replied: "I don't think you can replace a bloke like Cameron Smith.

"Just his experience and the player he is, everyone knows he's one of the best in the game.

"In saying that, we picked a side that's in some really good form this year. Damien Cook has been one of the best players in the NRL."

Mate Ma’a Tonga are a massive hit in New Zealand, but need time and space to prepare for a clash with the world champions. Source: 1 NEWS


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Watch: Proud friends, whānau perform passionate haka to honour Dallin Watene-Zelezniak after first win as Kiwis captain

Friends and family of Dallin Watene-Zelezniak capped off a special evening for the new Kiwis skipper following last night's historic win over the Kangaroos thanks to passionate haka from the stands.

Watene-Zelezniak's whānau delivered the emotional sign of respect from the stands shortly after the game in which he earned his first win as a captain.

The 23-year-old followed in his great-grandfather's footsteps last night when he earned the honour of leading the Kiwis.

His great grandfather Steve Watene was the first Māori to skipper the New Zealand Kiwis in the 1930s.

The 23-year-old’s great grandfather was the first Māori to skipper the Kiwis in the 1930s. Source: 1 NEWS

When asked at a press conference earlier this week about his heritage, the fullback said he was very proud.

"I think he (great grandfather) is smiling down at me at the moment, I think he had a part in this," said Watene-Zelezniak.

"So I am very privileged to carry his blood inside me and I guess represent him."

The 23-year-old was a key figure in the stunning 26-24 win over the Kangaroos. Source: 1 NEWS


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