Stephen Kearney became accustomed to fighting a losing battle at Parramatta so the Kiwis coach was not overly optimistic about having Sonny Bill Williams available for the Kiwis this year, or next, despite a cheeky suggestion.
Kearney, who quit as head coach of the Eels last week, was in Townsville promoting October's trans-Tasman test yesterday and fielded the inevitable question about Williams' prospects of resuming his seven-test Kiwis career now that a return to the NRL is imminent.
Williams confirmed he was returning to the code where he made his name at the end of the Super Rugby season earlier this month, a one-year deal with the Sydney Roosters is expected to be confirmed shortly.
Kearney noted Williams' lucrative short-term deal with Japanese rugby club Panasonic Wild Knights does not start until October 20 and joked he may include him in the Kiwis team to play the Kangaroos seven days earlier.
"Maybe well run him out here," he teased at a press conference at the test venue, Dairy Farmers Stadium.
"I knew you'd like that one," he smiled, according to a report on NRL.com
"It would be nice to trot him out, wouldn't it?"
However, Kearney emphasised his response was a throw-away line and although he would make inquiries in relation to next year's World Cup he had no expectation that Williams would be up for it.
"It's a fair way away, when he is available to play for New Zealand," said Kearney, who said the Kiwis had learned to live without him since he abandoned the NRL for French rugby in 2008.
"We've built up a group of Kiwi kids now who have been really good for us. It's a matter of seeing how things transpire for him. I'll have a talk to Sonny about that but we've spent the last four years without Sonny."
New Zealand Rugby League chief executive Jim Doyle told Fairfax Media his organisation had not yet clarified if and when Williams would be available for the national side.
"We assume he will be very, very good and there's no reason to assume otherwise," he said.
"But once he's signed up and is back from his rugby playing stint in Japan, that's when we will sit down and talk to him about international football and what he would like to do, what his thoughts are and the timings of everything."
Confirming the international allegiance of Sam Kasiano is a more pressing priority for Kearney and he will meet with him next week.
The Bulldogs behemoth was touted as a potential inclusion in the Queensland side for the State of Origin decider earlier this month and when he was overlooked, the NZRL reiterated Kasiano was a strong chance of making his test debut in Townsville.
Kaisano's mother Kalala wields massive influence over the 20-year-old Aucklander's career and would prefer him to play for the Kiwis.
- © Fairfax NZ News