By Samuel Taylor
The New Zealand rugby league team entertained fans at an open training session this week at Leeds Rhinos Kirkstall training ground.
The crowd on Tuesday was made up of mainly school children who were enjoying the start of their half term holidays. Assistant coach Wille Poaching and Lewis Brown even did the haka in just their underwear in brisk Yorkshire weather, which was met with cheers and a round of applause.
New Zealand head coach David Kidwell hailed the open training session, saying: “It’s great for the kids. Just look at the turnout.
“The one thing we are strong on in the team is Kiwi cultures. We make sure we engage with the local community and also make sure we spread the word of firstly rugby league and secondly New Zealand rugby league wherever we go.”
The training session lasted around an hour and a half. One thing that was particularly popular with the children was catching practice. Wingers Jordan Kahu and Jason Nightingale were put under pressure with jeers as they caught bombs.
The players stayed for around half an hour after the training session to sign shirts, balls and even the backs of mobile phones.
Colin Bottomley, 67, from Batley who came with his grandchildren, said: “It’s really good for the kids. I liked the way they have handled it. The New Zealanders are wonderful and Poching has done a great job in organising it.”
New Zealand start their Four Nations campaign against England at Huddersfield on Saturday afternoon.