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Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

10 things you need to know about Stephen Kearney

Stephen Kearney is the latest coach who will take on what has been Mission Impossible - turning the Warriors into an NRL force. Here are 10 things you need to know about the former Kiwi forward.

1) The 44-year-old Kearney, from the Kapiti Coast, is among the finest-ever Kiwi forwards although without quite reaching the exalted status of players such as Mark Graham, Hugh McGahan and Kurt Sorensen. He played 45 tests - which is a lot by international league standards - for the Kiwis between 1993 and 2004.

2) He has been the Kiwis' coach since 2008 - he was just 35 when he got the job, making him the youngest since Des White in 1961. He was also the youngest ever Kiwi captain, leading the team at the age of 21. His father, Stephen snr, told Stuff that his son had always been mature.

"He's been like that right through his age-groups...he was like a coach then really.

He actually had a diary in which he made appraisals of both his own performance and his team's performance."

3) Previous coach Frank Endacott thought Kearney too inexperienced for the Kiwis job back then, but said: "I have always said even when he was a player that he was destined to be a Kiwis coach. He was one of the truest professionals I ever coached." Kearney had immediate success by breaking Australia's long stranglehold on the World Cup although a lot of the credit was given to his assistant Wayne Bennett, the legendary Aussie coach. The Kiwis won the final 34 - 20 in Brisbane. Kearney's Kiwis have also won the Four Nations twice.

4) He was to have coached the Kiwis to next year's World Cup but has stood down from the national job immediately, following his Warriors appointment.

5) Kearney's NRL first grade playing career began at Western Suburbs, and he was an inaugural Auckland Warriors player turning out for the club from 1995 to 1998. He won a title with the Melbourne Storm who beat the Dragons in the 1999 grand final. He was also the first Kiwi to reach 250 first grade games.

6) Kearney has had a chance to learn form the best, assisting Craig Bellamy at the Storm and Bennett at the Broncos.

7) His initial foray in an NRL head coaching role was a disaster with Parramatta - they finished second last in 2011, and he resigned midway through the next season which was also going pear shaped.

"There's no doubt I did a fair bit of reflecting on it for the first two or three weeks, but not anymore...I can't change what happened, but I'm going to learn from it and make sure it's a positive experience," he said subsequently.

8) Kearney is married to Piri, and they have daughters Samantha and Isabella. His nickname is Mooks.

9) He was involved in one of the most famous disputes between New Zealand sportsmen when former test team mate Jarrod McCracken sued Kearney, Marcus Bai and the Melbourne Storm over a spear tackle during the 2000 NRL season. The resulting injuries ended McCracken's career and he was awarded about $100,000.

10) Kearney will by the third former Kiwi to be head coach of the Warriors joining Tony Kemp and Mark Graham (Tony Iro was caretaker coach briefly). He will be their 11th coach in 23 seasons.

Playing record

Position: Backrower
264 NRL games, 37 tries
Clubs: Western Suburbs, Sydney: 1992 to 1994, 46 appearances
Auckland Warriors: 1995-1998, 79 appearances
Melbourne Storm: 1999 to 2004, 1 premiership (1999), 139 appearances
Hull (England): 2005: 1 Challenge Cup win, 29 appearances

Kiwis: 1993 to 2004
Test caps: 44 (second in history), 9 tries

Kiwis record

Kiwis: 43 tests, 24 wins, 1 draw, 18 losses, 55.81% success rate
2008 World Cup beating Australia 34-20 in the final
2010 Kiwis defeat Australia in Four Nations final
2014 Kiwis win their second Four Nations title

- NZ Herald

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