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.