Stephen Kearney appeared to be in his element, fielding cross kicks and issuing instructions from the in-goal while Josh Hoffman and Alex Glenn sweated up near halfway of the Brothers Leagues Club ground in Ipswich, south of Brisbane.
Near the end of the Brisbane Broncos training session on Thursday the New Zealand internationals were doing other drills so kept their distance from the off-contract national coach - and it remains to be seen if they will be in close proximity when the Kiwis strive to atone for their World Cup final no-show in May's Anzac test.
Kearney's tenure with the Kiwis is currently on hold, and there is no guarantee the 41-year-old will secure a new deal following the New Zealand Rugby League advertising the role on Tuesday.
The NZRL expect Kearney to reapply for the position he held from 2008 until the conclusion of the World Cup, a galling 34-2 loss to pre-tournament favourites and trans-Tasman nemesis Australia.
The former test second rower and premiership-winner at the Melbourne Storm was content to speak about his coaching brief as an assistant at the Broncos, though reluctant to speculate on his future at national level.
"I don't want to make a big deal of all of it at the moment. I don't really want to . . . you'll see," he told Fairfax Media when quizzed on the likelihood of him reapplying before applications close next Friday.
Some Kiwis players advocated his retention when it became apparent the NZRL wanted to test the market for alternative options, though Kearney would not indicate if he was gratified by the recommendations of Jason Nightingale and Shaun Kenny-Dowall.
However, he did provide an inkling into the pressures he faced during and immediately after the tournament in the UK, Ireland and France.
Kearney originally intended to report for duty at the Broncos headquarters soon after returning from England but eventually had a change of heart.
"The coach (Anthony Griffin) said to come back after Christmas. I said ‘No' I'd be good to go.'
But after a trip home for the NZRL awards function and briefing with the board he opted for a family holiday in Queensland.
"After all off that I was pretty fatigued, with the seven weeks and everything that went on," he said, noting the recuperative qualities of a break on the Sunshine Coast.
Yet although the beach and his task at the Broncos were welcome diversions, Kearney admitted he was still pained by the manner of the Kiwis' meek capitulation at Old Trafford.
"When you're sitting having down time for a month you know that's a fair bit of time for reflection because, regardless of the situation, you want to be trying to find how you improve and make things better possibly next time," he said.
That process did not involve watching a replay of the final.
"I didn't think I needed to, to be fair," he said in a manner that suggests he can still visualise the disaster unfolding.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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