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Richardson's And Furner's Cultural Immersion

Guy Bevan

Kiwi haka 171104NH02

Shane Richardson and Dave Furner may be working on opposite ends of the field in the Rugby League World Cup’s most anticipated match-up this Saturday, but their experiences so far have been anything but in opposition.

Both Rabbitohs men have been immersed in culture since linking up with their international teams. General Manger of Football Shane Richardson is the Campaign Manager for New Zealand and Dave Furner has joined Tonga as an Assistant Coach, linking up with mate Jason Taumalolo who he coached to a Premiership in 2015.

For Richardson, his journey with New Zealand began back in March when he was appointed. However, when controversy rocked the Kiwis team just two months later as two of their star players were caught with illicit drugs, Richardson and Head Coach David Kidwell looked to re-establish the Kiwi culture in the playing group.

Richardson and Kidwell took some cues from New Zealand’s Rugby Union team and have seen the Kiwis go from strength-to-strength ever since. The squad even wrote a team song with legendary New Zealand band ‘The Dudes’.

“The planning for the World Cup really came out of the ANZAC Test where I observed it. We put a whole lot of things in place like position descriptions, leadership groups, codes of conduct,” said Richardson.

“I went to Christchurch and met with Gilbert Enoka, the mental skill coach from the All Blacks, and we spent a whole day with him which was really good and we’ve continued a lot of those concepts into our camp with one of his offsiders running it.

“[The camp] has been far better than we expected.

“We started off on a marae for four days and three nights, sleeping on the floor together, doing our own cooking, washing up and cleaning. That was sort of getting back to it all and learning a bit about the Māori culture.

“It bonded everyone together, especially after the challenges we had coming into the camp. The beauty of it is you’ve got 24 players and coaching staff that want to be there. We’ve gone about building the leadership and quality.”

Dressed in red and adopting the traditional tupenu, Rabbitohs Assistant Coach Dave Furner has plunged into the Tongan culture ever since coach Kristian Woolf first called him up to ask for his help.

Furner spent the previous Rugby League World Cup with the Kangaroos under Tim Sheens and is experiencing a completely different World Cup with the second tier nation.

Despite not having met up with his Rabbitohs counterparts (Football Analyst Leigh Richardson is also with the Kiwis), Furner is confident they’re feeling the same cultural enrichment he is.

“I think on both sides, it’s new for Richo and Leigh and it’s new for me. I’m really enjoying the camp and I think they are too. I was involved with the Australian side in 2013 with Tim Sheens so it’s a different perspective for me, a different cultural side,” said Furner.

“It was funny when we first arrived into Auckland, there was probably a couple of thousand Tongan supporters to greet the players and that was at one o’clock in the morning.

“I’m really enjoying it. I’m glad I was given the opportunity to be a part of it. They’re showing me so much about culture. It’s been good.”

Richardson is looking forward to swapping stories with Furner after their match in Waikato Stadium. It will likely be a late night for the two men who’ll likely still have the adrenaline pumping after experiencing the electric atmosphere the two groups of fans will bring.

“It’s good for Dave, it’s a great opportunity for him. I haven’t caught up with him yet but I’m sure I’ll catch up with him after the game on Saturday night,” said Richardson.

“There’s thousands of Tongans here for the game and there’ll be more thousands come down from Auckland on Saturday night. It’s basically a black out but I think there’ll be mostly red here on Saturday night. It’s going to be quite an interesting cauldron.”

With both Tonga and New Zealand undefeated in the Rugby League World Cup, Saturday’s match will have no impact on their quarter-finals hopes. However, both teams are looking to keep the momentum as they head into their quarter-final match-ups.

“It’s going to be a good test. We’ve got a couple of players in doubt but most certainly we’re building nicely into a really good challenge against New Zealand,” said Furner.

“Obviously New Zealand and Tonga are undefeated now and it’s a big match. I think the main point for us is about becoming better as a team. We’re guaranteed a quarter-final spot regardless. This match is about where we’ll finish on the group table.

“In the World Cup history, a second tier country has never beaten a first tier country, so we’re in some uncharted waters.”


Tonga have a huge chance to become that first team after their impressive performance against Samoa last weekend. Furner believes the decision of Taumalolo and Fifita to play for Tonga will serve to influence the international game for the better.

“The blokes like Taumalolo and Fifita choosing to go with Tonga and their heritage is fantastic and great for the game. You’ve got to admit the Rugby League World Cup is getting everyone excited to watch the games and the games are only going to get better as the teams get better,” said Furner.

Richardson and Kidwell believe their leadership building has paid off and aren’t expecting the Taumalolo angle to influence the game as much as spectators are expecting.

“Funnily enough the boys are pretty good about it all,” said Richardson.

“The bottom line is when we lost the players, assistants and all the things leading into the camp, a lot of people wrote us off and I think they’re a bit shocked about how well we’ve played so far.

“The guys go into Saturday night with a really good feeling about themselves, there’s nothing personal about the players who didn’t choose to go with us - it’s more about our own performance. It’s an old cliché but it’s true, the boys have trained really well so we’ll see how we go Saturday night.”

New Zealand v Tonga
Waikato Stadium
Saturday 5pm NZT; 3pm AEDT