Australian Glenn Morrison has joined Stephen Kearney, David Kidwell and Richie Blackmore on a shortlist of four to be interviewed for the Kiwis coaching position.
The NZRL received 14 applications for the job and have whittled it down to four but there were none of the big names many might have hoped for.
Kearney is the frontrunner to retain the position he's held since 2008, despite the fact the Kiwis were outclassed by Australia in last year's World Cup final in Manchester. He's known to hold considerable support within the NZRL and is also favoured by the majority of players.
Kidwell is the main contender, having impressed many since joining the coaching ranks in 2010. He recently started as Wests Tigers assistant coach after three years under Craig Bellamy in Melbourne.
Blackmore has had good success in New Zealand, having won two Fox Memorial titles and taken the Auckland Vulcans to the NSW Cup grand final and he was also the New Zealand Maori co-coach, but it's believed his lack of NRL or UK Super League coaching experience will count against him.
Morrison is the outsider. He is presently coaching the Dewsbury Rams in the UK Championship after a long playing career with Balmain, North Sydney, North Queensland, Parramatta, Bradford and Wakefield - he retired in 2011.
He gained experience in coaching while still a player, having helped coach the Wakefield under-18s and under-20s and took up a role as Wakefield assistant coach and head coach of their under-20s and nines sides when he retired. He has also been assistant coach of the Exiles in the UK and in 2012 was appointed coach of Dewsbury, taking them to the finals last year for the first time in 13 seasons.
The four Kiwis candidates will be interviewed by a six-strong appointment panel over the next week with a recommendation due with the NZRL board by mid-February. The appointment process is running alongside a review of last year's World Cup campaign, which also includes an investigation into the use of sleeping pills and energy drinks, which can mirror the effects of recreational drugs, by some players.
"We need to be clear that this process is not an indictment on Stephen Kearney's performance as coach over the past six years,'' NZRL chief executive Phil Holden said. "He has helped raise this programme to a higher level than it was when he arrived.
"But we were obliged to advertise this role once his contract expired and saw it as an opportunity to see who else was in the marketplace.
"It's also an opportunity to scope out a succession plan - who can we begin developing as future Kiwis coaches?''
The six-man selection panel consists of Holden, three NZRL board members _ chairman Scott Carter, former Kiwis player Iva Ropati and former Kiwis manager Ray Haffenden _ NZRL high performance manager Tony Iro, and High Performance Sport NZ coaching consultant and world champion Black Sox softball coach Eddie Kohlhase.
The Kiwis' first fixture this year will be the annual Anzac test on May 2 at a venue yet to be decided.