- Team Name: The Kiwis
- First Appearance: 1954
- RLWC2013 Group: Group B
- RLWC2013 Opponents: France, Papua New Guinea, Samoa
- Last Win: 2008
Ones to Watch: Benji Marshall, Josh Hoffman, Frank Pritchard
Read more about these great players and why they are ones to watch during RLWC2013.
Marshall’s try in the Final of Rugby League World Cup 2008 proved pivotal for the Kiwis, and the Wests Tigers half-back will again be New Zealand’s go-to man in 2013.
Since winning an NRL Premiership with the Tigers in 2005, Marshall’s game has developed beyond even his own wildest expectations, yet the 27-year-old retains a level of unpredictability in his attacking play that sets him apart from other creative players.
A half-back in the mould of England’s Rangi Chase, the 27-year-old Whakatane native boasts a sleight of hand that has left defenders of all abilities flat footed and grasping at thin air.
Marshall also possesses the ability to take on the line, and is deceptively strong in the tackle, often shrugging off the attention of would-be tacklers to break clear.
Hoffman featured twice for New Zealand in 2012, having burst onto the international scene following a series of eye-catching performances at club level with Brisbane Broncos.
Despite hailing from Queensland, Australia, Hoffman has never shied away from expressing his love for the nation of his heritage, who he qualifies to represent through a Kiwi father.
Hoffman stepped into Karmichael Hunt’s shoes as Brisbane Broncos full-back in 2010, having played a bit-part for the club since debuting in 2008.
Now, having made the position his own, Hoffman has set his sights on glory on the world stage with New Zealand.
His kick returns in open play laid the foundations for countless Broncos’ attacks during 2012, and another big season in the NRL could help set the stage for Hoffman to steal the limelight at RLWC2013.
Having been left of the squad in 2008, Kiwi forward Frank ‘The Tank’ Pritchard has redoubled his efforts for club and country as he seeks to make up for lost time.
Pritchard will celebrate his 30th birthday during RLWC2013 and will undoubtedly be keen to grasp with both hands what could prove to be his final opportunity to make a name for himself on Rugby League’s biggest international stage.
Pritchard is a raw-boned second rower or prop forward with the ability to scatter defences, and, despite his size, has earned a reputation for enterprising play and slick ball-handling skills.
Since arriving at Canterbury Bulldogs ahead of the 2011 season, Pritchard has steadily emerged as one of the NRL’s most explosive players, and his presence in the Kiwi pack will undoubtedly strike fear into the hearts of defenders.
A Bit of History
In 2008, New Zealand stunned Australia in front of a partisan crowd at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium to clinch the World Cup for the first time – sweet revenge for a team that had tasted successive defeats in 2000 and 2008.
Rugby League has been alive and kicking in New Zealand for more than 100 years. In 1907 the legendary Albert Baskerville organised Rugby League’s very first international tour, bringing a New Zealand side to Britain to play against the Northern Union.
The side included another legend, Australian Dally Messenger, and after losing a nail-biting first international 9-8 against Wales, the illustrious ‘All Golds’ won a three-test series against a Northern Union representative side 2-1.
While the tour is widely regarded as integral to the establishment of Rugby League in its infancy, back in New Zealand the game is strong in and around the Auckland area – home of the New Zealand Warriors.
The Warriors play in Australia’s NRL, but there is also a seven-team domestic competition which includes Auckland and six other zones: Northland; Manukau; Upper Central; Mid Central; Wellington and Southern.
Prior to the 2008 World Cup win, the highpoint for New Zealand Rugby League was an astonishing 2005 Tri-Nations Final defeat of Australia. The 24-0 whitewash in a final they were not expected even to reach, briefly made New Zealand world number one.
A year after tasting World Cup glory, the Kiwis under performed in Rugby League’s Four Nations, drawing with Australia before suffering a crucial defeat at the hands of the English. But they remain a potent threat and entertain high hopes of retaining a title that took them so long to earn and that they so richly deserve to hold.