Stephen Kearney's optimism vindicated
As Stephen Kearney holidayed on the Gold Coast with his family to recuperate following his traumatic departure from the Parramatta Eels, he never feared he was also on a permanent vacation from the NRL.
And the Kiwis' coach's optimism was vindicated last weekend when, after a month of negotiating, he was added to a revamped Brisbane Broncos managerial team for the 2013 season and beyond.
Shown the door at Parramatta Stadium in late July less than two months after his 40th birthday, Kearney might have considered a career change - or suffered a midlife crisis - after he became the latest coach unable to provide the club's first premiership since 1986.
Kearney's 24 per cent success rate - 10 wins in 42 games since he succeeded Daniel Anderson - suggested he was ill-equipped for a head coaching role in the code's most demanding competition but he aspires to assume that position again after two years as an assistant at the Broncos.
"That's the ultimate opportunity," he said, adding: "I'm mindful now of making sure the decision I make next time is a lot more measured that I guess the last one was."
That caution was evident when he opted for a peripheral role at the Broncos after going through the interview process to replace Brian McClennan at the New Zealand Warriors.
"The Warriors were definitely a possibility but for me the gut feel was the Broncos role was the best option for me and my family," Kearney told Fairfax Media after the Kiwis first training session in Cairns ahead of Saturday's trans-Tasman test in Townsville.
A former Kiwis second rower, Kearney is contracted to the NZRL until the end of next year's World Cup defence in England and although scarred by his experience at Parramatta he always assumed other coaching opportunities would arise.
"It was never going to be the end. I was always confident something was going to pan out or come out of the blue a bit.
"It was just a matter of where the opportunity would come from."
Brisbane head coach Anthony Griffin, a former mentor when Kearney was in the twilight of his first grade career at the Melbourne Storm in 2002, produced the most enticing employment prospect when Queensland and Broncos legend Allan Langer switched to the club's commercial division.
"They were looking to make some changes at the club. I was pleasantly surprised," he said.
Kearney said he was gratified to be approached by the six-time premiers as understandably his demise at the Eels was "a blow to the confidence".
He departed with more than a year remaining on his contract and after spending some quality time with the wife and children he had "really neglected" for the best part of two years Kearney was looking forward to rekindling another passion, without the burden of carrying the can.
"Being out of the firing line is a factor but I still put expectations on myself. I want to help the Broncos out.
"They're in a phase where they've had some wonderful history and wonderful talent that has left over the last couple of years," he said,citing the retirements of Darren Lockyer and Petero Civoniceva.
"It's an opportunity for the group of players there now to build their own little part of the Broncos history and I'm excited to be part of that."
Meanwhile, Kearney said he no longer dwelled on his wretched reign at the Eels.
"There's no doubt I did a fair bit of reflecting on it for the first two or three weeks, but not anymore.
"I can't change what happened, but I'm going to learn from it and make sure it's a positive experience."