New Zealand supporters can thank the fortitude of Dallin Watene-Zelezniak’s wife for his assured performance in their upset of the Kangaroos.
In the lead-up up to Saturday’s first Test against England in Hull, Kiwis skipper Watene-Zelezniak revealed the remarkable attitude of his heavily pregnant wife Purdy, who wondered if she was going into labour pains in Sydney on the eve of the trans-Tasman Test in Auckland.
With her husband having just been unveiled as the country’s new captain, she decided not to be a distraction.
“She didn’t want to tell me because she knew how big this game was for us and New Zealand,” Watene-Zelezniak said.
“After the game she told me and I caught the next flight back in the morning.”
It was a triumph all round for the Panthers fullback, whose inspired display helped the Kiwis to a 26-24 win.
And he was back in time to welcome the arrival of daughter Indigo.
Leaving his young family behind days later for the England series was a wrench, but the 23-year-old has unfinished business.
He was part of the team well beaten by England in Denver in June and is also determined to prove the Kangaroos boilover was no fluke.
Watene-Zelezniak heaped praise on the impact of coach Michael Maguire, whose surprise captaincy appointment has proven a master stroke.
Maguire is a steely figure when he needs to be, Watene-Zelezniak said, but also has the players’ welfare at heart in making the tour interesting at the end of an exhausting season.
A prime example was a two-day stopover in Dubai during which the players experienced camel riding and other local customs.
“He gives us a lot of detail and gives us no excuses of not knowing what to do in a game and who we’re coming up against,” Watene-Zelezniak said.
“And he’s coached a few of the boys in the England team, so it’s been good to get an insight on some of their players.
“That’s what you want as a player, it’s been real professional, this tour.”