No Australian coach for the Kiwis, says Tamati

KEVIN TAMATI: "I will be damned if I will support a team that had an Australian coach."
KEVIN TAMATI: "I will be damned if I will support a team that had an Australian coach."

Kevin Tamati would be appalled if an Aussie was appointed Kiwis head coach.

Since the Kiwis flopped 34-2 in last Sunday's World Cup final there have been calls for the New Zealand Rugby League to replace off-contract head coach Steve Kearney with an Australian.

Tamati, the ex-test forward who famously brawled with Kangaroo Greg Dowling at Brisbane's Lang Park in 1985, says he couldn't stomach the sight of an Ocker in charge of his beloved Kiwis.

"Yeah, well, right," Tamati retorted when asked if Kearney should be replaced by someone from across the Tasman.

"I will be totally Maori then. Without a doubt I am against it. I will be damned if I will support a team that had an Australian coach."

Having played 22 tests for the Kiwis between 1979-85, Tamati, now 60, feels strongly about the need for a New Zealander to be calling the shots.

Kearney, also an assistant at the Brisbane Broncos, has yet to decide if he will re-apply but that debacle at Old Trafford has done him few favours.

Tamati, who travelled to Europe to help with the preparation of the early stages of the Kiwis' campaign before returning to his Hawke's Bay home, was bitterly disappointed by the heavy loss.

"I knew after the first quarter that we weren't going to fire. I knew then we were going to be in trouble. And at halftime, well, I pretty much made a cup of tea and got ready to go back to bed."

The NZRL's problem is that if Kearney is not interested in re-applying there is a limited pool of top-notch New Zealand coaches to choose from.

Tamati's solution is to re-appoint Kearney and offer him better support behind the scenes.

"It is just a lack of experience and knowledge that Steve maybe hasn't got. Because if Steve gets the bin who else is in that arena?"

"Maybe he needs a bit more assistance in development. They need to look at how they can improve our coaching, rather than say he just lost a World Cup and now see you later. That ain't going to solve the problem."

Ex-Kiwis captain Mark Graham, who now lives in Queensland, wants to talk to NZRL chairman Scott Carter and believes the number of New Zealanders competing in the NRL means the Kiwis should be more competitive against the Aussies.

Like Graham, Tamati thought the Kiwis allowed the Kangaroos to assert their physical domination too easily in the final and both complimented the game plan and the execution of the Tim Sheens-coached side.

But Tamati was annoyed his countrymen were so easily smashed back by their opponents who repeatedly rushed-up and put pressure on kicker Shaun Johnson.

He rejected the notion they lacked mental toughness because competing in the NRL prepares them for the confrontational, pressure games.

"The psychological side of the preparation, watching from back here, was something I thought the boys lacked. To be as blatant as I possibly can, if it was me I would have gone out there and had a big punch-up but that is the days that have gone by.

"But now it is about rugby league skills against rugby league skills - it is not a brawling game."

Fairfax Media