Chairman: Kiwis coach job could go overseas

FUTURE UNCERTAIN: Stephen Kearney is welcome to reapply for his job as Kiwis coach.
FUTURE UNCERTAIN: Stephen Kearney is welcome to reapply for his job as Kiwis coach.

The Kiwis head coach's job won't be reserved for a New Zealander.

New Zealand Rugby League chairman Scott Carter says the off-contract Stephen Kearney was welcome to reapply for the vacant role but he cannot rule out an overseas candidate being considered.

All management contracts expired following the Kiwis 34-2 loss to the Kangaroos in the World Cup final at Old Trafford last weekend.

Former Kiwis coach Bluey McClennan and ex-test forward Kevin Tamati both believe a New Zealander should control the side, but Carter said the NZRL must be prepared to take the blinkers off.

"If that person was an Australian or an Irishman it wouldn't matter. It would have to be somebody that in the opinion of New Zealand Rugby League was the right person to fill the spot," Carter said. "There is certain to be emphasis on the right person for the job ahead of everything else."

Tamati reacted angrily earlier this week when it was suggested an Australian could coach the side, saying he wouldn't support the Kiwis if that was the case.

McClennan was not interested in applying but wants a New Zealander to fill the job.

Carter said an appointment will be made in the new year, but there was no deadline yet. Applications would be sought after the World Cup review has been completed and delivered to the NZRL board.

Several Australians have been involved with the Warriors in recent years.

Daniel Anderson, who coached the Warriors, was an ex-Kiwis head coach. Supercoach Wayne Bennett assisted Kearney when the Kiwis won the World Cup in 2008. Ivan Cleary assisted Kearney at the global tournament and wants to continue.

Although Kearney, who was appointed head coach in 2008, has had informal chats with the NZRL hierarchy, Carter wouldn't say whether he had indicated he was interested in returning.

"It would be inappropriate to speculate on that."

Whatever happens, Kearney's head won't be screwed on a spike outside NZRL headquarters and Carter said the disappointment of the heavy loss in the final was no reason for the NZRL to go hunting for scapegoats: "There will be no witch-hunts."

When asked if he believed Kearney should reapply, Carter said: "That's not for me to say. But I would say Steve is a fine individual and has committed a lot to the campaign, so if he chooses to keep his hat in the ring I would welcome it."

While the thrashing from the Kangaroos no doubt stung them, the board may offer Kearney a fair hearing.

Having noted the 32-point humiliation in the final was "clearly a disappointment", Carter believed major gains had been made in several areas.

"If we look at what happened in 2009 and 2011 up in the UK (when the Kiwis struggled) we have made progress. To be able to close out that semifinal (against England) at Wembley was significant, especially for a young team. We are satisfied a lot of the leadership and investment, and a lot of the psychology and high performance culture, has paid off.

"But, clearly, Australia were superb on the day and we need to get better."

Fairfax Media