League: Support for Kearney is building

By Michael Brown

Jason Nightingale. Photo / APN
Jason Nightingale. Photo / APN

Jason Nightingale and Shaun Kenny-Dowall are the latest Kiwis players to throw their support behind Stephen Kearney being reappointed New Zealand coach.

The NZRL yesterday indicated they had advertised the role of Kiwis coach with applications closing at the end of the month.

An appointment is expected by the end of February with the first task preparing for the annual Anzac test against Australia.

Kearney has indicated he will reapply for a role he has held since 2008, as has former Vulcans and New Zealand Maori co-coach Richie Blackmore. Wests Tigers assistant David Kidwell is another possible applicant.

It's known Kearney has good support within the corridors of the NZRL and is favourite to retain the position and Kenny-Dowall and Nightingale yesterday said they hoped he would be reappointed. Five-eighth Kieran Foran said immediately after the 34-2 World Cup final defeat to Australia, "I can't throw my support behind Steve enough".

"When you don't get the result people are going to ask questions," said Kenny-Dowall, who has played nine tests for the Kiwis but missed the World Cup due to injury.

"I'm a big fan of Steve Kearney and it would be good to see him continue as New Zealand coach."

Nightingale said it was difficult as a player to see criticism directed at a coach. "It's hard to see criticism directed at anyone you are associated with but we are all used to that and I think the coaches expect it. It's ... part of the game.

"I would love to see Steve go around again and I would support him. I think the rest of the guys would like to see him back as well. He's had a lot of success. I'm hoping it's just a process they are going through like any other job and I hope he's successful."

A six-man panel which includes NZRL chief executive Phil Holden, high performance manager Tony Iro, chairman Scott Carter, board members Iva Ropati and Ray Haffenden and High Performance Sport NZ coaching consultant and Black Sox coach Eddie Kohlhase will make a recommendation on the coach to the NZRL board.

The appointment is being done amid a review of the Kiwis' World Cup campaign, which includes an investigation into the use by players of sleeping pills and energy drinks which can mirror the effect of recreational drugs without breaking the Wada code.

- APNZ

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