It means, most likely, you won’t get to dress for the game. You’ll be watching powerless from the stands, as your brothers bleed for the cause.
But if you’re a Kiwis fan, #18 is about as close as you can get to the real action.
The NZ Kiwis want their fans to be our #18 during the upcoming Four Nations tournament.
New Zealand Rugby League’s national team campaign allows our biggest supporters the chance to make themselves heard in some of the country’s top venues – Whangarei (Kiwis v Toa Samoa at Toll Stadium, November 1), Dunedin (Kiwis v England at Forsyth Barr Stadium, November 8) and Wellington (Four Nations final at Westpac Stadium, November 15).
In reality, the Kiwis #18 is one of the hardest roles in the team. That player is expected to give his all at training, knowing he may not take the field, but also aware that he must to be ready to go if one of his team-mates was to fall and need replacing.
And those team-mates love him all the more for that dedication. They’re glad it’s not them, but they respect the sacrifice #18 makes for them.
They feel exactly the same about the fans, who never quite get to feel what they feel out in the middle.
“That almighty roar from the crowd – that’s exactly what you want to hear,” reflects Kiwis captain Simon Mannering. “It lets you know you’re doing things right and the fans shouldn’t underestimate how important they are.
“They’re the real backbone of our team.
They’re all part of our family too. They make the difference.”
In the “Be There, Be #18” campaign, Mannering, utility Thomas Leuluai and coach Stephen Kearney describe their emotions around representing their country and fans.
“The campaign invites fans to be at the games and be the 18th ‘man’, but the important point to note is that these accounts are totally unscripted,” says NZRL commercial manager Sarah Lewis. “The words are totally their own.
“It is a very powerful demonstration of the impact that the fans can have on player and team performance.”
These images will begin to appear around the NZ test cities over the next few weeks, leading into the Four Nations tournament, which kicks off with a doubleheader (including NZ v Australia) at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on October 25.
Look out for opportunities to meet your favourite players at community events in each test city – the Kiwis want to meet the people they play for.
At the games, sponsor-driven giveaways will enhance the fans’ experience, with Kiwis #18 replica merchandise available for purchase.