13 Sep 2016

Is Kearney the right man for the Warriors?

3:10 pm on 13 September 2016

Opinion - Stephen Kearney's coaching record for the Kiwis is pretty good. His record as an NRL coach is very poor. So what's the outcome going to be when he takes the reins of the only New Zealand NRL side next season?

As usual, those riding the Warriors 21-year-long rollercoaster will have to wait and find out.

Stephen Kearney

Stephen Kearney Photo: PhotoSport

Kearney was named head coach of the Auckland-based team today, taking over from Andrew McFadden, who will remain at the club as one of Kearney's assistants.

His playing career included a 79-game stint at the Warriors as one of their foundation players. He later went on to play the bulk of his career at the Melbourne Storm; as part of the 1999 side, he won a premiership in one of the greatest grand finals ever. So he knows personally what it takes to get the job done in the NRL.

His coaching career is mostly associated with the Kiwis, a team he had immediate success with in 2008. The Kiwis' World Cup triumph that year thrust Kearney's coaching credentials through the roof, although it was common knowledge that the assistant coaching role of Broncos and Queensland legend Wayne Bennett played a fairly substantial part in the Kiwis' success.

However, Kearney showed he didn't need the help of Bennett two years later when he guided the Kiwis to a Four Nations victory over the Kangaroos and the English and Papua New Guinean sides. This gave hope to long-suffering supporters of the Parramatta Eels, who Kearney had signed on to coach in 2011.

That's when it all went pear-shaped. Six wins and one draw was his record from a 24 game season. It got even worse the following season, with only three wins after 19 rounds - for that abysmal showing, Kearney was given the boot from the Eels.

His next gig was as an assistant with the Broncos in their post-Bennett era, but even that short stint has to go down as mediocre at best - the perennial title contenders first missing, then scraping into, the playoffs in Kearney's two seasons there.

But that same season and the one after were a watershed period for the Kiwis, who beat the Kangaroos in three consecutive tests for the first time in 63 years. Kearney literally went from the doghouse to the penthouse simply by changing what tracksuit he was wearing to work.

What Kearney can bring to the Warriors for the Mt Smart faithful (and inevitable bandwagon hoppers) is that he can get the best out of New Zealand players. He's pulled on the same jerseys they have and had the success that they want in both.

Given that the Warriors have spent the last couple of seasons acquiring the Kiwis' main skill players (Roger Tuivasa-Scheck, Issac Luke and now apparently Kieran Foran to partner Shaun Johnston in the halves), this can only be a positive move to have a guy like Kearney in charge.

Maybe it'll be the perfect fit - the Warriors get a coach who can consistently have the team humming, while Kearney can land an NRL job that doesn't end in disaster.

Jamie Wall grew up in Wellington and enjoyed a stunningly mediocre rugby career in which the sole highlight was a seat on the bench for his club's premier side. He's enjoyed far more success spouting his viewpoints on the game to anyone who'll care to listen.

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