Kearney pumped for Kiwis' home advantage

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 13:41 13/06/2014
Stephen Kearney
Getty Images
KIWIS COACH: Stephen Kearney.

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It was such a whistlestop tour of his old stamping ground that Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney did not even have time to see his Mum.

The Kapiti Coast-raised Kearney was at Wellington's Westpac Stadium, which will host the final of this year's Four Nations rugby league tournament on November 15.

Kiwis tests in New Zealand are a rarity, but the tournament, which also included Australia, England and Samoa, would see Kearney's men play matches in Whangarei (November 1) and Dunedin (November 8) before hopefully contesting the final.

Kearney's day job was assistant coach of the Brisbane Broncos, and despite them having a bye this weekend his schedule only allowed him to fly in at midnight yesterday before jetting back to Australia at 3pm today.

That meant the best he could offer his mother in Waikanae was a chat on the phone.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for our game," he said of the Four Nations tournament.

"I think 2010 was the last time we had a game in Wellington, and then we went to Rotorua and finished off in Auckland, so it's been awhile since we had some test match footy over the course of a few weeks in New Zealand."

With most of his players plying their trade at Australian clubs, Kearney said the chance for them to connect with their home country would be special.

"There's no question that, as New Zealanders, we're a people of the land and our people mean a great deal to us," he said.

"So to get to play in front of our people over three weeks here is a real positive, and we're going to use that to our advantage by making sure the crowds get out there and support us.

"The one thing I do know about our game is you can't take anything for granted, and there are examples of that every weekend.

"But for us, we know playing at home will be an asset, but only if we play the way we know we can."

An under-strength Kiwis side put up a credible showing in this year's Anzac test against Australia, having been handed a 34-2 hiding by the Kangaroos in the 2013 World Cup final in England.

Losing 30-18 in Sydney this year was a tolerable result and one Kearney is sure his players can build on.

The World Cup result aside, the general rule was that the Kiwis got better the longer they were together.

Kearney said that was true, and this time the Kiwis would show it.

"When you make the comparison with the Australian team, 80 per cent of that team is Queensland, who have spent six weeks together [during State of Origin] for the last eight years, so in terms of them connecting, they don't have to do a great deal," he said.

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"So for us, in terms of the improvement from the start of the [Four Nations] tournament to, potentially, the end, we have a greater scope for that.

"We'll put some ideas and processes in place so that by the time the final kicks off on November 15 here we're in the best position possible to be out there contesting it."

Meanwhile, he expressed ignorance of reports that the Broncos were preparing a blockbuster deal to lure Queensland and Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans back home.

Cherry-Evans was due to come off contract at Manly at the end of next year and would be the most sought after player on the market.

"Mate, I'm not in the loop there, I'm sorry," said Kearney, who was prepared to say Cherry-Evans would be a good pickup for the Broncos.

"I reckon he'd be pretty good, yeah."

- Stuff

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