David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

NRL: Warriors made the right choice: Meninga

Super model Kylie Bax with Mal Meninga. Photo / Doug Sherring
Super model Kylie Bax with Mal Meninga. Photo / Doug Sherring

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga believes new Warriors mentor Stephen Kearney is the best man to help the Auckland club realise their unfulfilled potential.

Kearney earlier this week resigned from his job as head coach of the New Zealand test side to take up a three-year deal as Andrew McFadden's coaching successor at the Warriors.

Meninga is a huge fan of the former Kiwis back-rower and World Cup-winning coach and hopes he can spearhead a Warriors' transformation from also-rans to genuine title contenders.

While Kearney's appointment has surprised some, the Canberra Raiders great says he is the perfect fit for the Warriors.

Kearney's nine years at the helm of the Kiwis have seen him develop strong relationships with many of the Warriors and Meninga believes the simple fact he is a New Zealander will resonate well both with the players and the local rugby league community.

"It's a pretty natural selection," said Meninga. "It might be obvious that Stephen goes there but it's the best choice as well.

"From a cultural point of view, I think Stephen is the best fit for the club, having so much familiarity with the players from rep footy but also being a Kiwi.

"Hopefully, with [managing director] Jim Doyle and now with Stephen, they can become competitive and a team that can always get in the top eight."

Despite Kearney's run of success with the Kiwis, which includes the 2008 World Cup victory and Four Nations triumphs in 2010 and 2014, critics are quick to point to his lack of success at NRL level. In his only previous role in charge of an NRL side, he managed just 10 wins from 42 games during a failed coaching stint at Parramatta in 2011 and 2012.

But Meninga insists Kearney's time spent as an assistant to Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy and his role under Brisbane maestro Wayne Bennett will prove invaluable.

"He's had an extraordinary apprenticeship, really," he said.

"Even though things didn't go too well for him at Parramatta, the Parramatta club weren't too kind to him, either.

"But to have worked under people like Craig Bellamy and Wayne Bennett is going to hold him in good stead footy-wise and in regards as to how to handle people."

Meanwhile, after captaining the Raiders to four grand finals and three premiership wins in the late 1980s and early 90s, it goes without saying Meninga is pleased to see the Green Machine firing once more in this year's finals series.

Ahead of the Raiders' semifinal against Penrith in Canberra tonight, he believes both sides' expansive styles are helping to transform the game and says history has shown the Warriors can benefit from adopting similar tactics.

"The game's evolving with attack and the Raiders and Panthers are changing the face of league.

"All defensive units are pretty hard to break, take Melbourne as an example, but the game is evolving and there's a brand new way of playing footy. It suits the Warriors, as well. If you really want to take it on, you want to use the football and play football the way they used to.

"The game's going to be better for it."

- NZ Herald

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