Somebody once said that it doesn’t matter who coaches the Wallabies because they’re never going to be better than the All Blacks. It’s true, of course. And the same thing can be said about the Kiwis league team.
The fact that they are sounding out interest for a new head coach continues to go under the radar as the debut edition of the Auckland Nines plasters our horizons. Today it was reported that the short list has been cut down to David Kidwell, Glenn Morrisson, Richie Blackmore and Stephen Kearney.
It’s far from a stellar line up and none of the replacement options have a strong enough case to overthrow Kearney in the lead role. Kearney may not be of the Craig Bellamy or Wayne Bennett caliber, but offloading him at this stage would be a bit like swapping Luke Covell for Shannon Hegarty. None of the replacements have premium NRL coaching experience – the inconvenience of the transition period between coaches doesn’t seem worth the hassle.
In my opinion, Stephen Kearney hasn’t really done anything wrong during his time as head coach. The Kiwis may have only beaten the Kangaroos twice while he’s been in charge but both of those victories have been in crucial games – the 2008 World Cup and the 2010 Four Nations tournament. The overall percentages don’t make for pretty reading but consider the fact that this team couldn’t beat a drum let alone the Australians when he took over. Under his guidance, the Kiwis have become competitive and a threat to the dominance of the Kangaroos. Overthrowing them altogether is something that no coach can realistically expect to do. But Kearney has made steps in the right direction to be able to do so one day.
I admire the consistency and stability he has brought to the side. No longer do I watch an international match fearing that they’re going to have 60 points put on them. Yes, they were beaten soundly in the final of the 2013 World Cup, but that does not reflect the unstoppable precision of the Australians on the day nor the tough matches the two teams have played in recent years. Consistency has always been the a thing Kiwi sides have lacked. Changing coaches isn’t going to help achieve this.
I also admire Kearney’s tendency to favour in form players. While incumbents should be acknowledged, players shouldn’t make the side on reputation alone. He hasn’t been afraid to drop under-performing players such as Adam Blair who was the vice captain at one stage. The same can be said for players such as Krisnan Inu. He’ll also back his young talent, which is why guys such as Kieran Foran, Elijah Taylor and Alex Glenn already have a handful of International matches under their belts at such an early age.
The only questionable decision he has made is to dump Tohu Harris from the World Cup squad for Sonny Bill Williams. Tough as it would have been to exclude Sonny, he should not have been rewarded for showing such a lack of respect for the Kiwis jersey. It’s the sort of stunt that cheapens the ethics of the team that they’ve worked so hard to build over the past few years.
I just don’t think they should be searching for someone better if they’re in pursuit of achieving the virtually impossible. The Warriors were only too happy to let go of Ivan Cleary in 2011 after proving to be a capable and consistent coach. The successors have all proved to be a couple of shades less than exciting. I hope the Kiwis don’t go searching for their own pot of gold and end up with two shillings instead.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
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