Kearney 'given chance to lift NZ game' - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Kearney 'given chance to lift NZ game'

07/10/2009 02:45:28 PM Comments (0)

Coach Stephen Kearney sees his appointment for another four years as a chance for stability ahead of New Zealand's defence of rugby league's World Cup in 2013.

The announcement that Kearney had signed a new contract came as the Kiwis assembled in Auckland on Wednesday to prepare for a one-off Test against Tonga in Rotorua next Wednesday.

The New Zealand squad then head to London, where they face Australia on October 25 (NZT) in the opening match of the inaugural Four Nations tournament.

Kearney said he was pleased that the new contract had been agreed before the start of the campaign.

He said the issue was not about him, but about the team, and the length of his new deal meant the Kiwis could build on what had been started with the World Cup victory last year.

"It's for the team in terms of stability and consistency taking us through to the next World Cup," he said.

"It gives me the opportunity to set some real standards amongst the group. That how I see the benefit of the term."

Kearney, 37, gained 45 caps as a player and also captained New Zealand.

He took over as Test coach last year and, with Australian Wayne Bennett as his assistant, guided the Kiwis to their first triumph in the World Cup's 55-year history.

Kearney has also been Melbourne's assistant coach since 2006, during which time the Storm have made the NRL grand final each year, winning twice, including last weekend.

Missing when the Kiwis assembled were the four players involved in last Sunday's title decider - Melbourne's Adam Blair and Jeff Lima, and Parramatta's Fuifui Moimoi and Krisnan Inu.

They have been given time off and will join the New Zealand squad on Saturday.

Kearney indicated that he would probably field close to his top line-up against Tonga.

"Taking into account that we have to play the opening game about 10 or 11 days later, it's important that we get that mix right straight away," he said.

"I'll look at how we pull up over the next few days, wait for some drunken soldiers to come into camp and see how everyone is, and make an assessment from there."

New Zealand Rugby League chairman Scott Carter said the board viewed Kearney's extension as coach as critical to the game's development during a period of structural reform.

"Stephen isn't just the coach of the Kiwis - he is a key figure in our total strategy," he said.

"At a time when we're going through a transitional phase, putting new reforms in place as a result of our review, he's a vital leader who has done so much to both elevate and enhance the game's image."

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