Stephen Kearney unsure of his future after rout
DAVID LONG IN MANCHESTER
Stephen Kearney needs time to decide whether he wants to continue as coach of the Kiwis.
His contract ran out after yesterday morning's 34-2 defeat to Australia in the World Cup final at Old Trafford and if this is to be his last game, it was a disappointing way to bow out.
The Kangaroos were a class above New Zealand in every aspect of the game. The Kiwis never came close to scoring a try and even though it took until the 18th minute for Billy Slater to post the first of Australia's five tries, there was only ever one side in it.
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Issac Luke, Sonny Bill Williams and Shaun Johnson all failed to play as well as they needed to, while their top strike weapon Roger Tuivasa-Sheck lasted just eight minutes before leaving the game with what appears to be a broken leg.
Kearney ran a campaign that was tough to find fault with. He selected on form, there were no issues inside the camp and there were improvements in their performances each week.
But the team was up against an Australian side desperate for revenge after losing in the final five years ago and they ended up embarrassing the Kiwis.
Kearney was emotional after the game and said he would need to think about whether he wanted to carry on.
"It is probably a bit raw for me at the moment, I will go home and have a good think about it, do a bit of reflecting," Kearney said.
"It has been five years at the helm, so I need to have a bit of a think and just see."
While the Kiwis were outclassed in this final, there is good reason to be optimistic about how the 2017 World Cup might go for them. They are still a young side with most of the key players still having their best years ahead of them. Australia, on the other hand, will need to rebuild their ageing squad as this will be the last World Cup for a number of their players.
"I want to take all of that away from it at the moment and see what I think will be the best for the team and myself," Kearney said.
"We measure ourselves on this performance.
"It wasn't good enough and when you come up against an Australian side and they perform the way they did, we just couldn't get into the contest."
One of the players who will take a lot from this World Cup is 23-year-old Dean Whare, who's sure to play many more tests in the Kiwis jersey. He said he would like Kearney to remain as coach.
"Yes, definitely, he has been a great motivator for me," Whare said.
"Coming into the Kiwis last year and playing the test this year. He has done an excellent job. It's just our own fault out there on the field."
If Kearney doesn't want to stay on, or the New Zealand Rugby League feel he hasn't achieved what they required from him, there is no real successor.
There aren't any New Zealanders working as a head coach of a Super League or NRL club. Brian McClennan is unlikely to be sought out after his disastrous time at the Warriors, leaving Tony Iro as the only possible option if the NZRL wanted to give the role to a New Zealander.
When asked if he had any regrets about this ultimately failed campaign, Kearney said he felt he'd done everything possible.
"For me, it's a matter of reflecting on it and working through each week and saying how could we improve and do anything better? To make sure that if we find ourselves in this position again, we don't let ourselves down with the performance we did today."
WHAT THE KIWIS SAID
Simon Mannering: "[Australia] played very well, we probably went away from our strength, which is to go through the middle with support. We sent a lot of one out runners and they were slowing us down pretty good. When they had the ball they were troubling our defence and we were far too loose through the middle."
Elijah Taylor: "It means so much to a lot of the players, our families and friends back home. We let them all down. It was not good enough. Every time the forwards hit it up we tried to get an offload but their defence was so good. They didn't allow us to play the type of footy we wanted to. They slowed down the ruck really well and took Issac Luke out of the game."
Kieran Foran: "We definitely left no stone unturned. We prepared well, we knew it was going to take an almighty effort to topple this Australian side. We knew they were going to be hungry but we were just as hungry. We were outplayed."
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck: "It's just disappointment, going down like that and not being able to be there for the boys. The coach spoke to us and told us life goes on. We just have to take it like it is. There will be another time."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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