In what could be the writing on the wall for Stephen Kearney, New Zealand Rugby League has formally advertised the Kiwis head coach role.
Kearney guided the Kiwis to their 2008 World Cup triumph - when he was assisted by Australian mastermind Wayne Bennett - and 2010 Four Nations success.
But, most recently, Kearney was at the helm for the embarrassing 34-2 World Cup final demolition against Australia at Old Trafford in December last year.
In front of almost 75,000 supporters, the Kangaroos scored five tries in one of the worst displays from the Kiwis in recent times. The NZRL is also investigating whether players misused prescription drugs - combining sleeping pills with energy drinks - during the World Cup campaign.
Kearney's contract ended after that tournament and, while the Brisbane Broncos assistant coach has indicated he will re-apply for his position, the NZRL is clearly after a change of direction.
"Stephen has done a great job with the Kiwis, but this is a chance for us to test the market and see who else puts their hand up for the role," NZRL chief executive Phil Holden said.
"We have a big year in prospect and want a strong build-up towards what may well be a 2017 World Cup on home soil."
Applications for the Kiwis coaching position close in 10 days on January 31, with a short list of candidates to be interviewed in early February and a recommendation made to the NZRL board mid-month.
Former Kiwis David Kidwell, currently the Wests Tigers assistant coach, and Richie Blackmore have been linked to the role, while former Warriors now Penrith Panthers coach Ivan Clearly could be in the mix.
The six-man selection panel consists of Holden, three NZRL board members - chairman Scott Carter, former Kiwis player Iva Ropati and former Kiwis manager Ray Haffenden - high performance manager Tony Iro, and High Performance Sport NZ coaching consultant and world champion Black Sox softball coach Eddie Kohlhase.
"What's driving this from our point of view is the Anzac test," Holden said. "We're trying to create as much time as we can to prepare for that first challenge of the year."
The appointment process will take place in parallel with a review of the Kiwis' World Cup campaign, conducted under a template provided by High Performance Sport New Zealand and due for completion in early February.
"Obviously, there were things we did really well and other things we need to improve on to reclaim the World Cup next time round," Holden said.
"We wanted this process to be as robust as possible to help us get the right coach in place and begin our long-term preparations for 2017."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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