Huddled inside the Turangawaewae marae in Ngaruawahia, the 24 New Zealanders making up David Kidwell's Rugby League World Cup squad sat quietly, listening to the advice of Kiwis legend Fred Ah Kuoi.
A 28-Test utility back from the 1970s and 1980s, Ah Kuoi summed up the essence of Kiwi football in one pithy phrase, Kidwell says.
Smart and tough.
In the wake of his side's calamitous Anzac Day Test loss - and the subsequent World Cup expulsion of Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor for alleged cocaine use - Kidwell has sought to reform the entire Kiwis environment.
He has doubled down on predecessor Stephen Kearney's "Te Iwi Kiwi" philosophy, while trying to implement what he sees as a uniquely Kiwi style of play.
Yet it is unclear precisely what Kidwell means by this.
All successful rugby league sides are smart, tough and driven, with good decision-making in attack and defence.
So what is so unique about this Kiwi style, or is the "Kiwiness" redundant?
For 16-Test prop Marty Taupau, it's not so much the style that counts, but rather the magnitude of the on-field domination it creates.
It doesn't involve a particular focus on offloads or flashy play, but rather a physical, all-encompassing aggression.
"Kiwi football as a front-rower is where we're absolutely terrorising the middle, laying the platform," the 27-year-old Taupau said.
"For us middles, we're creating and cementing that foundation.
"Run hard, tackle hard. It all comes down to discipline."
The proof will be in the pudding in Saturday's World Cup opener against Samoa - an opponent with plenty of their own firepower.
Armed to the teeth with big, powerful forwards, including Junior Paulo and Josh Papalii, Toa Samoa have flown under the Cup radar to date.
But a shock upset over the Kiwis would set the cat among the pigeons in Pool B, with a Jason Taumalolo-powered Tonga also smelling blood.
That's where the Kiwis' rugby league nous kicks in, according to Taupau.
The Manly-based enforcer, who will start in Auckland this weekend, said the Kiwis would play the long game with Toa Samoa, gradually grinding them down.
"We just have to approach it in a very smart manner where we're going to take a lot of juice out of them and exploit their weaknesses, make them run less and tackle more, and that'll open up opportunities for our backs," Taupau said.
"I describe my business as playing as hard and fast as I can.
"We're only here in the game for a short amount of time and it's only 80 minutes - for a front rower, we have to do the best we can to be very precise in our jobs."