League: I was not pushed, says Kearney

By Ben Horne, Steve Jancetic

Stephen Kearney. Photo / Brett Phibbs.
Stephen Kearney. Photo / Brett Phibbs.

Stephen Kearney denies he was pushed before resigning from his job as Parramatta NRL coach with more than a year to run on his contract.

Kearney announced he would quit the Eels on Friday amid speculation he had been tapped on the shoulder by chairman Roy Spagnolo after managing just nine wins from 41 games at the club.

"From my point of view we could go through a thousand reasons why and why not," said Kearney when asked if he had been given the support of the board. "I'm not here to give you those reasons today. I'm here to say that I think it's time for a change and for the club to move on.

"It's been a real difficult four months to be fair and it's been really challenging at times but I just thought the best thing for myself and family and the club is to step away."

Just when he will move on remains unclear, with speculation he could see out the rest of the season before possibly turning his part-time role as Kiwis coach into a fulltime gig.

But his departure from the club could be fast-tracked if the Eels continue to struggle on the field - a distinct possibility given they face ladder leaders Melbourne and Brisbane in the next two weeks.

Asked when he would be leaving, Kearney said: "[I'll] sit down with chairman and have a think about it, [it's] not something I've thought about deeply at this stage."

Eels captain Nathan Hindmarsh, who sat beside Kearney at yesterday's media conference at Parramatta Stadium, confirmed the players didn't find out about the coach's resignation until it emerged in media reports on Thursday night. It caps what has been a dreadful final year in the game for Hindmarsh, the veteran back-rower admitting it was an all-too-familiar scenario for the last-placed team, which has had five coaches in the last six years.

"When it comes to the crunch we're not producing out on the field, we feel partly responsible with the results we've been giving out," Hindmarsh said. [I'm]disappointed and it's happened a few times, the amount of hard work Steve puts in with his coaching staff not to get the results is disappointing."

Speculation immediately turned to Kearney's successor, with NSW State of Origin coach Ricky Stuart reportedly at the head of the queue.

Eels officials denied they had spoken to any possible replacements, with former Eels and South Sydney coach Jason Taylor, Newcastle assistant Rick Stone and former St George Illawarra coach Nathan Brown also mentioned as candidates for the job.

- AAP

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