League: Kiwis assistant to be named soon

By David Skipwith

Stephen Kearney is after an assistant to take over from Ivan Cleary. Photo / Getty Images
Stephen Kearney is after an assistant to take over from Ivan Cleary. Photo / Getty Images

Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney hopes to have an assistant coach confirmed in days.

With Andrew McFadden standing down from the role to take on the Warriors head coaching position only a few weeks after being appointed Kearney's right-hand man, the search has gone on to find the ideal replacement ahead of the Four Nations tournament in October. Kearney didn't have one for the Anzac test — Ivan Cleary was available as an adviser if required — but it will be essential for a tournament.

He will be looking for an attack coach, which essentially rules out David Kidwell, who applied for the head coaching role this year.

"We're talking to a couple of candidates," Kearney said. "We've spoken to an individual and we're just waiting to have that confirmed. I'm sure over the next couple of weeks you should hear something."

The Four Nations looms as an important tournament for the Kiwis. Not only did they disappoint in last year's World Cup final but the Four Nations final is also being played in Wellington.

The Kiwis produced an encouraging, although ultimately unsuccessful, performance in the Anzac test, when they were without a large number of regulars.

"It showcased the depth in talent that we have and the last couple of years we've seen individuals like Nathan Fien and Benji Marshall, guys of that calibre, exiting the Kiwi team," Kearney said. "It's a bit of a transition period for us.

"What I'm really encouraged about is we had five debutants in the Anzac test and a lot of the selections for that, through circumstances of injury, brought that about.

"The key thing for us is we've got a core group of players - Shaun Johnson, Kieran Foran, Issac Luke, Simon Mannering, Dean Whare, Jesse Bromwich and Ben Matulino — who are really at the top of their game and it's about putting the right people around them to make sure we keep moving forward.

"There were only two guys who had played over 20 tests in that team and it's a matter of giving those younger guys some exposure so that in four years, when we hope to challenge for the World Cup again, we have a group of guys surrounded by others who have 15-20 test matches behind them."

He expressed disappointment that Warriors fullback Kevin Locke was leaving the NRL for the UK Super League but said he would still come into contention for Kiwis selection if his form demanded it.

"It's always a challenge and I'm never going to say never. If Kevin's a genuine standout in the Super League, I'd have to say he would be considered. The fact that he is finding it hard to make an NRL position with the Warriors just makes it hard."

The Kiwis aren't short of contenders at fullback and wing.

"Peta Hiku, Josh Hoffman and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck can play fullback and those positions which Kevin would be vying for. And then you've got Jason Nightingale and Manu Vatuvei playing great football. And Ngani Laumape, Konrad Hurrell and young David Fusitu'a, all of those edge positions."

- Herald on Sunday

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