"In Touch" marks Four Nations win

27 November 2014

Well, if you're an NZ rugby league fan, there has been no better time to follow the game than the past six weeks.

Four Nations success on home turf has provided the game with a huge boost around the country, with international games staged in Whangarei, Dunedin and Wellington.

We've put together an "In Touch" souvenir of that ride, including pics, game reports and some commentary on what victory means to rugby league in New Zealand.

With our Kiwi Ferns and Junior Kiwis also upsetting their Aussie rivals, could this be a shift in power at international level?

That's a nice thought, but let's just enjoy this moment while we can, without getting ahead of ourselves.

Enjoy our special "In Touch" Four Nations issue here.

Thanks to Photosport for most of the great action pics.

NZ Kiwis win Four Nations title

15 November 2014

The New Zealand Kiwis have survived a late Australian Kangaroos comeback to win the 2014 Four Nations title 22-18 at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.

Victory gave New Zealand their second title, after claiming the 2010 edition of the tournament. It also saw the Kiwis beating the Kangaroos in consecutive matches for the first time in 61 years.

Inspired by a man-of-the-match performance from Shaun Johnson, who scored the individual try of the game by dummying past defenders, outrunning some more and then beating Greg Inglis's tackle, the home team looked like winners for most of the encounter.

The Kiwis took the lead in the 28th minute and never surrendered it. However, the Australians, who headed into the tournament with only one loss in their previous 36 tests, came close to stealing the game back in the final three minutes.

Kangaroo Michael Jennings opened the scoring early on from a bomb, befpre New Zealand centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall cut around the outside on 23 minutes, finding a gap on halfway and making it to the 10-metre line, before being dragged down.

A quick play the ball and a pass to the right caught Australia short, and a diving Jason Nightingale crossed for a try that Johnson converted from the sideline.

When Cameron Smith was ruled to have tackled Kieran Foran high, the Kiwis elected to take the easy two points, grabbing an 8-6 lead, before Manu Vatuvei capped off a piece of Johnson brilliance with a try in the left corner minutes later.

Another sideline conversion from Johnson sent the Kiwis to halftime with a 14-6 lead. Into the second half, Daly Cherry-Evans was able to slice through and pass for Sione Mata'utia to score his first test try.

Smith converted to make the score 14-12 to the home team.

The game was then held up for several minutes, while Martin Taupau was stretchered from the field with a suspected neck injury.

The next scoring saw Johnson showing his class and brilliance, but his conversion hit the post and missed. Vatuvei then literally smashed his way over, before Johnson hit the posts again with the conversion.

Interchange Ben Hunt scored in the final minutes, after some deft interpassing and Smith converted to close the scoreline to 22-18 to the Kiwis.

The Kangaroos again attacked and threatened to steal the game, but the NZ defence was just enough to win the game.

NZ Kiwis 22 (Manu Vatuvei 2, Jason Nightingale, Shaun Johnson tries; Shaun Johnson 3 goals) Australia Kangaroos 18 (Michael Jennings, Sione Mata'utia, Ben Hunt tries; Cameron Smith 3 goals); HT: 14-6

Crowd: 25,093.

Govt, NZRL join forces for families

14 November 2014

Education minister Hekia Parata has announced a partnership with New Zealand Rugby League to improve the education, health and wellbeing of thousands of young people and families.

Parata says "It's More Than Just A Game" brings together NZ Rugby League (NZRL), the Ministry of Education, the Accident Compensation Corporation, the Health Promotion Agency and New Zealand Police.

"NZRL has a strong relationship with players, their families and fans numbering about 140,000 across the country, many of them in Maori and Pasifika communities.

"We've made great progress in areas such as participation in quality early-childhood education and achievement of NCEA Level 2, particularly for Maori and Pasifika, but we know more needs to be done."

Parata says "It's More Than Just a Game" recognises people respond far more positively to messages from within their own communities.

"We've welcomed the opportunity of NZRL's powerful influence and relationships with communities and whānau to get a more educated, healthier, better-off and safer New Zealand.

"NZRL will promote access to public services, including assisting 300 junior players to achieve NCEA Level 2, and expanding early learning playgroups. It will also support health checks for young children, safe-drinking and smoke-free environments, and promote healthy and safe lifestyles through the "LeagueWise" leadership programme and "Safe Communities" initiatives.

NZRL chief executive Phil Holden says NZRL plays an important part in the health and wellbeing of its people.

"We support our communities on and off the field, whether in early learning, developing future leaders or promoting better choices. We've found government partners who understand our challenges, share our values and will help provide solutions," he says.

"This is a fabulous opportunity, and I want to thank NZRL and its players for partnering with us to do better for our young people and families," says Parata.

The government is contributing funding of $250,000 to "It's More Than Just a Game".

Four Nations crowd record looms

13 November 2014

Fans are being urged to ensure the 2014 Four Nations is the best-attended ever with a strong showing in the final between New Zealand and Australia in Wellington on Saturday night.

This year's tournament, which will conclude with the final at Westpac Stadium, can already lay claim to the highest aggregate attendance for the group stages. The six pool matches involving New Zealand, Australia, England and Samoa recorded an aggregate attendance of 119,603, beating the previous record of 101,207 in 2010.

A crowd of more than 17,903 in Saturday's final would give the 2014 Four Nations the record for overall attendances (137,506), which was also set in the 2010 tournament.

Crowds in the 2014 Four Nations have so far averaged 19,934. In 2010, the last time Australia and New Zealand hosted the tournament, the average crowd through the group stages was 16,868 (19,644 including the final).

"There is no doubt the 2014 Four Nations has been an outstanding success," says tournament director Paul Kind. "The performances of Samoa have captured the imagination and we have seen some incredible matches in the pool matches.

"The fact that all four nations could have feasibly still participated in the final up until the last pool match highlighted the competitiveness of the tournament.

"The fans have embraced the concept across Australia and New Zealand right from the double header at Suncorp Stadium, and I'm looking forward to seeing the support that the first Four Nations final in New Zealand generates."

Other records that have been broken in the 2014 Four Nations include:

  • The double-header crowd of 47,813 at Suncorp Stadium produced the largest non-World Cup Test match crowd in Brisbane ever (beating the 46,355 at Brisbane Cricket Ground for Australia v Great Britain in 1954)
  • The New Zealand-Samoa match at Toll Stadium, Whangarei (16,912) produced the largest-ever crowd for a match between the two nations
  • The 18,456 crowd for the WIN Stadium clash between Australia and Samoa on Sunday was not only the largest crowd for a match between the two nations, but the largest crowd for a Kangaroos match against a nation other than England or New Zealand at home since 1996.

New Zealand will play Australia on Saturday night at Wellington's Westpac Stadium at 8.45pm NZDT (6.45pm AEDT). Tickets are available via ticketek.co.nz.

Musical stars at Four Nations final

11 November 2014

Performances from Kiwi recording stars David Dallas and Tahuna Breaks will set the stage for the NZ Kiwis and Australia at Saturday's Four Nations rugby league final at Wellington's Westpac Stadium.

While the sporting archrivals are set for a rematch of last year's World Cup final in the main feature, tournament organisers have also secured a couple of musical heavy hitters to get the crowd pumped up for the main event.

Dallas' hit single "Runnin" was the Kiwis' run-out song for this year's Anzac Test, after an online poll of fans. The hip-hop artist adds another credit to his already long CV, having played support to international rap superstar Eminem in Auckland earlier this year.

"The coolest thing to come out of New Zealand for quite some time," says Rip It Up magazine.

"Easily the most impressive Kiwi cultural export since Flight of the Conchords," claims American URB Magazine.

Tahuna Breaks have been an institution on the New Zealand music landscape for almost a decade now, mixing a fusion of musical genres that encompasses funk, disco, soul, electronics and roots.

Comprising anywhere between 6-10 members, they have been regulars at all the big NZ and Australian music festivals - Big Day Out, Homegrown, Highlife NYE, Rhythm & Vines, Splore.

These two acts are major drawcards in their own right, but their presence at the Four Nations final - a 20-minute set each - offers a unique entertainment experience for spectators.

"We're so excited to have David Dallas and Tahuna Breaks on the same bill as the NZ Kiwis and world champion Australian Kangaroos," says New Zealand Rugby League commercial manager Sarah Lewis.

"Our vision for the Four Nations final was to offer a total entertainment package that would appeal to hard-core league fans and first-timers alike.

"We think this line-up has something for everyone - two great acts and two great teams - and we expect tickets will fly out the door pretty quickly this week."

Tahuna Breaks are scheduled to hit centre stage at Westpac Stadium at 7.10pm on Saturday, with Dave Dallas expected at 7.50pm.

Kick-off for the NZ Kiwis v Australia Kangaroos is timed for 8.45pm. Get your tickets here.