Ivan Cleary says he wants to work with the Kiwis again.
The Penrith Panthers head coach, who was Stephen Kearney's assistant at the rugby league World Cup, says he has enjoyed the experience of spending six weeks with the New Zealand team and would like to continue his involvement, provided he gains permission from his NRL club.
"I would love to [be involved again]," Cleary said. "Obviously with my role with the Panthers it's going to come down to whether I have the time. The club were good enough to let me come to this one. Whether that's the case again, and if I get the opportunity, we will just have to wait and see.
"I am really grateful to have had the opportunity. For me, it's been awesome. It was disappointing [in the final] but I'm sure looking back there's plenty to learn from it all."
Kearney says he needs time to think about whether he wants to continue with the Kiwis after five years at the helm.
Cleary says if he himself retained an involvement it wouldn't necessarily be as an assistant coach.
"I have loved being part of it and if we can somehow work it out I would certainly welcome the opportunity if it came up again."
Cleary paid tribute to Kearney's work as Kiwis coach, saying the heavy defeat in the final shouldn't detract from his achievements at the last world cup five years ago.
"Steve has been fantastic. He has been doing this for five years and they have had some great victories in that time," Cleary said.
"Australia have been the dominant force in rugby league for as long as I can remember and it hasn't changed and won't change in the near future.
"As a whole, I think the New Zealand team is getting closer. You need to remember the Australian team they have now, there are some once-in-a-generation players in that team and it's not always going to be that way.
"While it seems doom and gloom at the moment, in context I actually think the gap is getting closer."
While the Kiwis got a 34-2 hiding in the final, over the course of the tournament there have been some solid foundations put in place for the next few years.
Players like Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Shaun Johnson, Kieran Foran and Issac Luke all look to still have several more representative years ahead. The same can't be said for some of the Kangaroos' key players including Johnathan Thurston, Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith and Paul Gallen.
"I think they [New Zealand] are on the right track," Cleary said.
"The heritage camp they ran at the start of the year, that was a good thing. They are doing work on young Kiwi guys in Australia to try to pledge their allegiance to New Zealand. They need the depth of talent - there are more Kiwis players in the NRL.
"I'm not sure what else they can do in a hurry. It's not going to happen overnight. Australia have been the dominant team for 30 years.
"The nucleus of the [Australian] team is the Queensland team who have been dominating Origin for so long. For us to win the game we had to try to upset that. We didn't play well enough to do that."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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