Former Warriors mentor Ivan Cleary will step in as assistant coach of the Kiwis rugby league team for the upcoming World Cup.
Cleary currently coaches the Penrith Panthers, where he went after ending a long, successful tenure at the Warriors.
He has been contracted to assist head coach Stephen Kearney until after the Rugby League World Cup in October-November, it was announced today at league headquarters in Auckland.
The Kiwis will be looking to defend their crown.
"I watched the Kiwis in the ANZAC test and thought 'these guys can win the World Cup' so I was very humbled when I was approached about a role with the team. I took a couple of days on the decision, but the challenge was too good to refuse."
Cleary had six years in charge of the Warriors, ending his stint with the 2011 Grand Final defeat to the Manly Sea Eagles. He has since lured Lewis Brown and Isaac John across the Tasman while Elijah Taylor will join him at the Panthers next year.
"With [Simon] Mannering there as captain and a few other [Warriors] there it will be nice to reunite with them," Cleary said.
"Half my adult life was in New Zealand and we brought the kids up there. I enjoy the culture and have a history with a few of the Kiwi players."
That cultural fit was a key element in Cleary's appointment with the tournament in England, Wales and France just 16 weeks away.
"Ivan understands our culture and is respected by the players," Kearney said. "He is experienced as a coach and, importantly, he's match-fit. Those he has worked with closely have a lot of confidence in him."
Cleary's appointment follows a trend of Kearney bringing in a high-profile assistant for the global event.
At the last World Cup he had legendary coach Wayne Bennett alongside him as the Kiwis upset Australia to win the crown.
Cleary, who joked pressure would be off him as he steps back to an assistant, will also act as a selector.
Tony Iro will remain as manager.
"Tony did an outstanding job in Canberra," NZRL boss Phil Holden said. "Our debrief after that match looked at our overall management structure for the World Cup and Ivan's appointment followed. We believe his transition into the team will be a smooth one and he will be superb support for Stephen, Tony and the Kiwis."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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