Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

League: We'll have you, Steve

Steve Kearney's resignation could be good for the Kiwis. Photo / Getty Images
Steve Kearney's resignation could be good for the Kiwis. Photo / Getty Images

Steve Kearney's departure from Parramatta could be good news for the Kiwis, according to prominent league personalities on both sides of the Tasman.

Kearney announced on Friday he would leave Parramatta Stadium after a season which promised much but has delivered little.The Eels remain bottom of the NRL ladder.

Some suggest Kearney's move could be detrimental to the national side, both in terms of the undoubted blow to his confidence and the fact that he will no longer have the unique insight offered to an NRL coach of all the players across the competition.

Former Kiwis and Manly coach and recent Manly CEO Graham Lowe feels while it was harsh on Kearney, there will be a silver lining.

"I felt he might have had too much on his shoulders," says Lowe, "and maybe he fell into the trap of thinking coaching is a science, rather than an art.

"But more successful and experienced coaches than Steven have tried to juggle [club and country roles] and failed, so it is a big call.

"Now all his focus can be on the Kiwis job - it's almost a perfect pass for the New Zealand Rugby League."

Lowe also hopes people don't dwell on the issues around Kearney's demise and instead start to look forward.

"There is no point looking back," says Lowe. "You can't look at the problems - you need to look at the solution."

NZRL CEO Jim Doyle told the Herald on Sunday earlier this year that Kearney would retain his full backing and support through to the 2013 World Cup, regardless of what transpired at Parramatta, and he has continued that line in recent days.

There is even talk of Kearney being used in a full-time role. It is hard to justify this year, with little international activity, but would make sense leading into the World Cup.

"Being full-time would give him more of a chance to identify possible bolters," says Lowe, "and keep more of an eye on possible talent. I'm sure he could be involved in development and other activities but his main and only job is to win test matches. The amount of talent at his disposal at the moment is mouthwatering and we need to take full advantage."

Former Kangaroos and Warriors captain Steve Price agrees with Lowe.

"International jobs these days are almost becoming too big to be added on to a club coaching role. I've seen it with Australian coaches and it was always difficult for them to combine both roles."

Probably the greatest league coach ever, Wayne Bennett, struggled to fulfil both roles in 2005, with the Kangaroos losing the Tri-Nations after Bennett had endured a tough season with the Broncos.

Price also remembers the huge demands on Ricky Stuart in 2008, when he was in charge of a struggling Cronulla outfit and then had to guide Australia through a World Cup campaign on home soil.

"It's also impossible to put your energies into both jobs," says Price. "[Former Queensland coach] Michael Hagan told me recently he didn't know how he did it [coaching club and Origin], saying that it was incredibly demanding and his head was spinning virtually the whole time."

- Herald on Sunday

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