Questions Need To Be Asked Of Kearney

I like Stephen Kearney and think he’s done a fantastic job as Kiwis coach.

But questions need to be asked about whether personal issues with certain players are affecting team selection.

Kearney’s record as coach of the Kiwis is impressive. He won a World Cup in his first major international tournament in charge of the side and picked up two other major international championships since.

But he has refused to select Roosters prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Dragons star Benji Marshall over the past couple of seasons despite their form warranting inclusion. Marshall was once again inexplicably left out of the Kiwis train-on squad for the tour of England this week, while injury to Waerea-Hargreaves settles that selection without it creating debate. With Shaun Johnson and Thomas Leuluai out of contention due to injury – Marshall is without doubt the next best eligible halfback to be picked along with Manly’s Kieran Foran.

Youngsters Tui Lolohea and Kodi Nikorima of the Broncos could be potential options but neither is currently a better international halfback and neither have played at the international level. Surely in a large squad, Marshall warrants inclusion.

It appears that both Marshall and Waerea-Hargreaves are on the outer with Kearney for some reason other than form and, while he’s quite within his rights to select who he wants, Kiwi rugby league fans deserve to know the truth as to why those two NRL stars are surplus to requirement.

Kearney has been linked to the Warriors head coaching job this week too. Warriors boss Jim Doyle has gone out of his way to deny these rumours and has publicly promised that Andrew McFadden will remain coach of the side for the 2016 season. If Doyle were to secretly be plotting to replace McFadden with the Kiwis coach, he would do his own reputation significant harm. Personally I think McFadden will be the head coach when round 1 comes around next season.

Kearney is not the right person to coach the Warriors in my opinion anyway. He deserves a chance to be an NRL head coach but this is not the right club for it.

Kearney’s critics will say assistant coach Wayne Bennett was the man responsible for the 2008 World Cup triumph and will point to the star players in the current Kiwi squad for the reason why they have overtaken the Kangaroos in the world pecking order. Those same critics will highlight his tenure at the Parramatta Eels as a reason why he doesn’t work as a week in week out first grade coach. The reality though is that those numbers don’t tell the full story. Bennett, Craig Bellamy or Des Hasler would have enjoyed no more success than Kearney did at the Eels – the club was a total mess with the administration and the board undermining each other to the point where on-field success was impossible. They still haven’t completely sorted it even after all this time.

Kearney deserves to take credit for the success of the Kiwis in recent seasons. He’s had some good cattle to work with but he’s also fashioned a style of play that has beaten the Kangaroos and selected the right players for the task (JWH and Marshall notably excluded).

But the Warriors would run the risk of becoming the Kiwis in disguise with so many leading players at one club and the national coach sharing two significant posts. It hasn’t worked in the past because naturally you can only have one priority. Yes, it is possible to have a number of objectives but when push comes to shove one role takes priority.

The Warriors need a confident coach, who displays a strength of character outwardly, uniting fans and critics alike. They need a coach with universal respect and I’m not sure that Kearney ticks either box just yet. Admittedly neither does incumbent McFadden but I see little point in going through the upheaval of making yet another coaching change unless it really is worth it.

McFadden is the right person to stay in the role for now. Maybe Doyle is sounding out if Kearney is interested in the job so he has a plan in place if McFadden doesn’t work out during the early rounds next season. A prudent NRL club boss would be looking at potential options anyway. I just hope they don’t stop with Kearney and that they keep looking.

In the meantime, when the Kiwis assemble for their tour of England, someone needs to get a straight answer from Kearney – why is Benji not in the side?
About author
This article has been written by Dale Budge. Dale is a well known rugby league commentator and journalist, having covered the sport for over 10 years.

Website : playtheball.co.nz
Twitter : @playtheball

Comments

I get the points with the article - however I'd consider if we should be excluding JWH from the discussion at the moment as he won't be on the tour due to injury. Whether or not Kearney would have selected him if he was fit is a different story...

However, my understanding was a) there was a suspicion JWH was one of those using sleeping pills at the world cup in 2013 which may have contributed to this (and also why certain others weren't picked in 2014), but b) there was an article on it last year how JWH didn't carry his form over from club footy into international footy. When playing Australia - he played like Jane, as opposed to playing like Tarzan when he plays for the roosters.

Benji - completely agree. Should have been there in the absence of SJ and Leuluai (provided he is fit).
 
I get the points with the article - however I'd consider if we should be excluding JWH from the discussion at the moment as he won't be on the tour due to injury. Whether or not Kearney would have selected him if he was fit is a different story...

However, my understanding was a) there was a suspicion JWH was one of those using sleeping pills at the world cup in 2013 which may have contributed to this (and also why certain others weren't picked in 2014), but b) there was an article on it last year how JWH didn't carry his form over from club footy into international footy. When playing Australia - he played like Jane, as opposed to playing like Tarzan when he plays for the roosters.

Benji - completely agree. Should have been there in the absence of SJ and Leuluai (provided he is fit).
Bang on - I've heard the same thing. I feel Kearney has the right to explain his non-selection rather than for us to speculate. Hence why I want to hear his reasoning. I suspect Stephen will avoid talking about it if it were true and use form etc as an excuse. Given how well JWH has played this season, that wouldn't wash so it would be interesting had he been available.
 
I get the points with the article - however I'd consider if we should be excluding JWH from the discussion at the moment as he won't be on the tour due to injury. Whether or not Kearney would have selected him if he was fit is a different story...

However, my understanding was a) there was a suspicion JWH was one of those using sleeping pills at the world cup in 2013 which may have contributed to this (and also why certain others weren't picked in 2014), but b) there was an article on it last year how JWH didn't carry his form over from club footy into international footy. When playing Australia - he played like Jane, as opposed to playing like Tarzan when he plays for the roosters.

Benji - completely agree. Should have been there in the absence of SJ and Leuluai (provided he is fit).
It would have been interesting indeed if JWH hadn't blown out his knee... Granted the kiwis do still have Bromwich, Matulino, Taupau, Eastwood etc. But on this season's form, I'd pick JWH ahead of Eastwood. Guess we won't find out until the end of next season at the earliest.
 
Well another Season and another coach? So whats new? And I do not believe for one second dropping Cappy for Kearney will change anything.

The only way to improve on the field is to make improvements. At least half this current squad needs to be replaced.
We do not have full commitment and certainly do not have a full group of players who will play for each other let alone capable of winning games consistently.

Lets see whats wrong?

The culture is weak players out on drinking drugs whats next? The length of player contracts is one alarming factor that cripples this team. Most are on multi season contracts, feeling comfortable can not be dropped adhoc and the players know it.
So going forward seriously we need to look at any future contracts being a maximum of two years primarily for overseas players!

Replacing under-performing out of their depth or high injury players as quickly as possible and their are many who fall into this category.

Doyle what a joke a CEO with no league knowledge and no direction-Replace or step him aside as soon as possible.

The replacement of the incumbent coach is not a long term solution and should not have been considered.

Next Seasons outlook? Unless massive player changes are made now it looks like a similar season in store for 2017/18.
 

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