Kiwis star backs Kidwell despite Anfield thumping
NEW Zealand halfback Shaun Johnson is backing his coach David Kidwell as the right man for the job, despite the comprehensive 34-8 defeat to Australia in the Four Nations final.
It was not just the result but the manner of the performance that stung, as the Kiwis put together one of the worst 40 minutes in their history.
They trailed 24-0 at half-time after a chaotic first half, where their defence was constantly torn apart and the ball handling was simply awful.
Such a performance indicates issues with the preparation and focus of the team, which falls squarely on the shoulders of the head coach Kidwell and his staff.
But Johnson emphasised that the Kidwell has the backing of the playing group.
"Yeah we do (have faith in him),” Johnson said. "It's hard because your coach delivers you the game plans and tells you the things we need to focus on. As players we then went out there and delivered pretty much the complete opposite. As a team I thought we all prepared very well, (we were) very focused for the game.”
When asked if Kidwell should remain in the role, Johnson simply said "I think he should”.
Kidwell has been on a steep learning curve but will have some hard questions to answer in the review, centred around the performance at Anfield.
"We made too many errors and we played a very hot Australian side today,” Johnson said. "Today they were in another class, they were very clinical today. When you are giving away the ball like we were ... the errors - they killed us.”
As Johnson stood in the bowels of Anfield, the disappointment was palpable. Halfway through his post-match interview the Kangaroos started with yet another raucous team song, which was clearly audible as Johnson answered the questions.
Johnson had talked before the match of achieving something, of having something to hold on to after a poor Warriors season, but instead the Kiwis have to comprehend another significant anti-climax.
"We need to let this sink in and remember this feeling,” Johnson said. "You come all this way for a purpose and to achieve something as a group and when you don't do it for whatever reason you are feeling disappointed and very hurt.”