New Zealand Rugby League won't stand in the way of Kiwis coach Steve Kearney becoming involved with the Warriors if that's where he wants to take his talents.
NZRL chief executive Jim Doyle made that clear as speculation continued to swirl around Kearney coming on board at the ailing Warriors in some form next season.
Kearney met NZRL management yesterday, a day after Brian McClennan's Warriors slumped to their sixth consecutive NRL loss.
Kearney also met Warriors management and McClennan at the weekend.
He clearly has options on his plate after stepping down from his own troubled spell as head coach of the bottom-placed Parramatta Eels.
“We had some discussions with Stephen. He's obviously working through various options he has in front of him. They will all unfold in the next few weeks,” Doyle said.
“He is very positive. Obviously, it's nice to see him in a position where he has options as opposed to a few months ago where he was in a negative frame of mind of not enjoying the Parramatta environment and wanting to try and do something different.”
When Kearney left the Eels the NZRL made it clear they would be keen to beef up his role, returning him to New Zealand to help develop the game here with players and coaches.
Doyle said “that's still the case”.
But it's clear Kearney still has ambitions to remain involved in a major competition and it's now a question of whether he juggles jobs or specialises. A position at the Warriors, possibly helping McClennan and his assistant Tony Iro, in an expanded coaching team could allow him to have a foot in both camps.
“If he had to go to the Warriors as assistant coach, that would still be a positive for the Kiwis . . . he would be able to do that job as well,” Doyle said.
“Stephen is keen to stay involved at coaching at the highest level. He needs to work through from his own perspective what is his future . . . would he go back to a club like the Warriors or whatever, or to be involved more with the Kiwis and New Zealand league?”
Doyle said from a New Zealand league perspective, it was important that the Warriors were performing well as they held so much attention in this country.
“We don't play enough games for people to be focused on the Kiwis, so it's very much around the NRL and the Warriors are our week by week shop window. Anything we can do to help them become better, we are always happy to do,” Doyle said.
Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah was giving little away about his meetings over the weekend.
With just two rounds to play - the Warriors travel to play the Dragons this weekend and finish at home against the Raiders - there seems little point in wielding any axes now.
The Warriors have now lost 14 matches and won eight to drop to 13th on the table. Eight of those losses have been by 10 points or less and five of them have been by either one or two points.
It's the inability to break out of the tailspin that is hurting McClennan most. Having to do that with a squad hit by injuries hasn't helped him.
But questions remain as the Warriors, for the third time in five weeks, surrendered a handy lead to lose on Sunday to the Panthers 18-16.
Doyle, meanwhile, said he also discussed more immediate Kiwis business with Kearney as they prepare to tackle Australia in Townsville on October 13. Doyle said it looked like that match would be a sellout.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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