Capturing coaching legend may be unrealistic but targeting him would show NZ league bosses have ambition.
The New Zealand Rugby League has no option but to chase an Aussie as the new Kiwis coach and the bloke to target first is Phil Gould.
Not that the controversial king of Sydney league will be available - Penrith overlord Gould is too busy fighting the good fight out west to take over a Kiwi team that went south at the World Cup. But my dream team would be Gould as the commander with Ivan Cleary - his Penrith mate - an assistant alongside the former Kiwi warhorse David Kidwell, the Rabbitohs and Storm man who has just joined the Tigers. This Dream Team won't happen. But hey, what's wrong with dreaming.
That starting point would at least make it clear the Kiwis are aiming high as they must do - (yawn) yet again - to restore international league's credibility after Australia's embarrassing cruise through the World Cup.
Former coach Brian "Bluey" McClennan is so, so wrong in saying the coach must be a New Zealander. No New Zealander holds a significant coaching job right now. Steve Kearney, the Kiwis' boss for the past five years, was a disaster at Parramatta, and his overall Kiwis record is pretty awful. It would be remiss to the point of negligent for the NZRL not to at least consider an Australian.
Why promote Gould, the impossible dream? Because he defines the job description.
Gould has an outstanding State of Origin record. Gould is a big personality with clout and makes things happen. (If Gould was in charge, the Sonny Bill Williams/Tohu Harris fiasco would have surely been avoided.) Gould knows what makes a representative player. A Gould-coached team would be high on self belief and at least put up a fight, unlike the pussycat Kiwis did at Old Trafford. Gould is publicity gold.
Kearney deserves respect as a terrific test player who has done his very best as coach, and delivered a couple of titles. But his tenure turned to custard with a moderate Four Nations record, hopeless results against Australia and an ultimately disastrous World Cup in charge of a team laced with NRL stars.
NRL heavyweights Kieran Foran and Issac Luke operate in pivotal positions, a rare Kiwis luxury. Sonny Bill Williams, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves were dominant NRL players. That is one heck of a foundation which should not end up in a 34-2 horror show. Many of the Kiwis were also shoddy in the semifinal win over England.
The NZRL needs to target its man, the very best it can find, and attempt to make an offer that can't be refused. Wayne Bennett might want to come back. Kearney's assistant Cleary - a bloke with impeccable standards - is an option, and it was wonderful to read he still wants to be involved. Craig Bellamy ain't half bad despite a poor representative record. No New Zealander can match those blokes. If forced to predict, I think Cleary will end up with the job.
Despite the lack of a representative track record, the man has enough quality in his club coaching history to offer hope.
Johnson not up to the task
The new Kiwis coach must ditch Shaun Johnson unless the Warriors No 7 has a personality transplant. Johnson wins the odd battle and loses every war. He disappears too often and his defensive softness places too much pressure on others. The Kiwis would have been more formidable with Foran at halfback and Sonny Bill Williams at pivot, no matter how crazy that sounds. Picking Johnson means the Kiwis are happy for rare wins if everything falls into place. This loser mentality has to be eradicated. NRL football is hard enough, but representative league is a brutal mind and body deal beyond a lot of players and Johnson - who plays a key position - is one of those.
Read deserving of title
A mighty congratulations to Kieran Read, who as everyone knows thoroughly deserved rugby's international player of the year award. He has Richie McCaw's competitive traits and creative abilities beyond. He has achieved that rare place, of re-defining a position, just as his Canterbury comrades McCaw and Dan Carter have done. Read's rise is all the more stunning because absolutely no one predicted it. The iron-boned No 8's offloading has emerged when wide-running forwards with this capability are paramount. Maybe a bit of SBW rubbed off on him.
Revelling in flow of runs
What an enjoyable first day of New Zealand test cricket this season, offering the rare-to-extinct sight of our brave lads dominating with the bat from the outset. This is a poor West Indies team but who cares? Beggars can't be choosy.