Stephen Kearney's coaching future up in the air

DAVID LONG IN MANCHESTER
Last updated 05:00 01/12/2013
Stephen Kearney
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STEPHEN KEARNEY: The Kiwis' coach's contract expired at the end of the world cup final.

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The Kiwis are now officially without a head coach. New Zealand Rugby League chief executive Phil Holden confirmed Stephen Kearney's current contract expired at the end of the World Cup final played in Manchester earlier this morning. Kearney was not giving anything away about his future before the final against the Australians at a sold-out Old Trafford stadium.

"His contract and all of the management team comes up at the end of the World Cup," confirmed Holden, who said he hasn't talked to Kearney about his future. "I haven't had any discussions about it and the timing hasn't been appropriate," he added.

While the result of this morning's game will undoubtedly be the defining factor on what happens next, Kearney's supporters will claim he did well to get the team to the final. The average age of the current Kiwis squad is just 25 compared to what seems to be an ageing Australian side, which will need an overhaul in the not-too-distant future.

Kearney could be tempted to want to stay with a squad that is only likely to get better. However, he may also like another tilt as an NRL head coach despite his disappointing time at the Parramatta Eels. Currently he is the assistant coach to Anthony Griffin at the Brisbane Broncos. Another issue may be if the NZRL decides it wants a fulltime national coach. That is a development advocated by Sunday News league columnist Tony Kemp.

The former Kiwi international, Warriors coach and ex-head of high performance for the NZRL said it was essential the next coach worked solely on international football.

"If the Kiwis are to become a genuine force to be reckoned with, the NZRL needs to get its coaching structure right going forward," he writes in today's column. "Kearney has an impressive record. But the reality is that he is still only a part-time coach.

"If the Kiwis are to become a super team, they need someone in charge who devotes his life to them, 24-7. That could be Kearney. But while he's working with the Broncos, it feels like that's asking too much."

If Kearney doesn't want to stay on as head coach or the NZRL feels compelled to look at other candidates, his likely successor could come from anywhere.

There are no New Zealanders currently working as head coaches at any NRL or English Super League clubs, so options appear thin on the ground. One option could be former national coach Brian McClennan but there is a feeling his coaching time has passed, and the Kiwis still feature Warriors players from his era at the NRL club when he was said to have lost the dressing room.

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That might mean the need to look at an Australian or English coach.

- Sunday News

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