Smith: “Honour” to Coach Kiwis

Credit: Tom Campbell

Perth Kiwis Coach Darren Smith says it will be an “honour” to lead his country for the 2018 ANZAC Challenge against Perth City on Saturday.

A proud New-Zealander, Smith has previously been involved in the West Coast Pirates coaching staff before taking on the top job at the Joondalup Giants First Grade side.

“It’s an honour to coach and I’m proud to be associated with the team,” he said.

“The opportunity came up to coach a rep side. Tony Crowe (NRL WA Operations Manager) called me up last week and asked if I was interested.”

The Kiwis suffered a heart-breaking 18-14 golden point loss in last year’s fixture, and Smith says his team are out for revenge.

“It’s about restoring some pride into the jersey and hopefully they go well,” he said.

“It’s a chance to play for their country, their heritage and is an opportunity they might not get anywhere else.

“To represent New Zealand in Australia will be a big night.

“We’ll be keeping it basic. Keep the ball moving, run hard and tackle hard.”

The Kiwis have a stack of experience in their side with Delane Edwards, Jordan Stringer, Taiapa Graham and Simon Jones forming the spine of the team, while young-gun Leighmon Hohaia-Katene gives the team an exciting option off the bench.

“There’s a good mix in there (of youth and experience),” Smith said.

Hohai-Katene is a West Coast Pirates Under 18’s SG Ball Cup halfback, but made his First Grade debut for the Joondalup Giants last week and impressed enough to earn a spot in the Kiwi’s Senior squad.

“He’s a great kid with lots of talent so I’m sure he’ll find his place,” Smith said.

Smith says there has been an increased level of interest from players wanting to be involved this year.

“I’ve had a lot of people ring me who are keen to get involved so people want to be part of it and part of the day,” he said.

The game kicks off at 6pm at Dorrien Gardens after the League Tag, Under 18’s and Senior Women’s fixtures.