Questions Need To Be Asked Of Kearney

By Play The Ball · Sep 18, 2015 · Updated Sep 18, 2015 · ·
  1. Play The Ball
    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

    Play The Ball
    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 :
    Twitter : @playtheball
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  1. Mike
    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.
  2. Jay M
    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).
      tajhay likes this.
    1. Play The Ball
      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.
    2. Jay M
      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.
  3. brightman
    "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."

    I'm going to have another crack at ya seen as you've literally begged me to do so, here goes. Benji last played for the Kiwis in 2012 after the NRL season, in 2013 his form sucked so bad he requested an early release in July but continued to suck until he took his suckyness to Union where it better suited Kirwin and The Blues. Quickly he matured and with good judgement returned to the great game of League but actually only found form this season, 2015. Thats 3 years of crap form that you've neglected to check facts about, or perhaps your opinion is different?
    BUT WAIT! I haven't mentioned JWH yet. He played his last test for the Kiwis in the 2013 WC but STILL failed to transfer any of his club form to the national team that his ego was inflated on, but that's the press for ya. Roll on 2014 with all the extra weight JWH carried and really he was a non-event to start and definitely a non-selection later after 'opting out'. Unfortunately this season injury has curbed his warranted selection, but the man you insinuate, Kearney, has spoken publicly and favorably of JWH without promising him anything that should be earned.
    So I fail to see how I didn't understand your so called article. It's pretty simple really, as you would say, it's "absolute crap".
    1. View previous replies...
    2. brightman
      Your half right, it shouldn't be up for debate. But quoting the 2nd paragraph from the 'article',

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

      You started this, I've taken exception and provided answers supported by fact that you've chosen to ignore for own self interest.
    3. brightman
      This only the 2nd article you've written here that I've read. Based on this one I'm sure you can do better, good luck and no hard feelings. See ya in the forum.
    4. Play The Ball
      You haven't given me any fact - you've given me your opinion and, to this point, you are in the minority. Kearney has not given us a reason why he'll play players out of position or pick guys that haven't played first grade in the halves ahead of selecting Marshall. He didn't give much of an explanation last year when JWH was left out.
  4. brightman
    Your opinion is conflicted as I've illustrated, perhaps if you had of used facts.. speaking of which, what facts do I need to get straight?
    We have a difference of opinion, whoop-dee-doo. You had an opportunity to debate with me and use my so called "criticism" constructively but have unfortunately disappointed me again. Why bother writing an article if that is how you receive feedback, just stick to the forums like the rest of us.

    I know I don't accept other peoples opinion over mine easily (my wife tells me so) but if you're going to indulge in journalistic opinion here on this fan site then do it justice and make it robust and more compelling please.

    I look forward to your next article with hope it will be more considered.
    1. Play The Ball
      You are talking absolute crap. You didn't understand my piece - it's pretty simple. No conflicted opinion here - I like Kearney but don't want him as Warriors coach. He's free to select who he wants but owes the public an explanation for not picking two form players.
    2. Play The Ball
      You also make a habit of failing to read basic English - I'm more than happy for people to criticise my work so long as they understand what they're criticising - you quite clearly don't.
  5. brightman
    Really? You say Kearney ain't right for the warriors in one paragraph then move to another defending his tenure at the eels justifying that by saying Bellamy and co couldn't have succeeded under the management and administration of the eels board and to top it off you give him his deserved credit for success with the national team but question his selections!
    Try this on.
    The warriors with Doyle in charge provide the opposite environment to the eels Kearney had to deal with. Ideal I'd say. Especially if you've learnt from your past failings and have been mentored by the most successful coaches and transferred those learning's to the highest level and achieved success not seen in more than 50 years, defeating the kangaroos 3 consecutive times is like England bearing the All Blacks twice in a row. Which brings me to selections, if we'd lost you might have a leg to stand on. But we won the last 3 games vs the kangaroos without those two players. Perhaps if you were really a fan you'd have read quotes from Kearney in relation to JWH this season. Injury is the only reason that man hasn't been recalled. Now Benji, well he's a known quantity and will answer the call when needed, but heaven forbid come the WC and Johnson, Foran and Benji are injured. Then what, genius? Better to blood the young fellas now against England and see who has the right stuff than have no choice but to gamble later.

    Finally, are you really a journalist or just another troll.
    1. Play The Ball
      I have a different opinion to you so clearly I'm a troll. I never called for Kearney to pick those players just to tell us the real reasons why they weren't selected.
      I rate him as a coach but don't think he's the guy to coach the Warriors at this time for the reasons outlined in the story.
      If Benji is a known quantity why take Mannering, Matulino, Bromwich, RTS - they're known quantities & we'd be in the shit at the WC without them too?
    2. Play The Ball
      I don't mind having my work criticised - check out the comments on my NRL Top 100 players story. But if you're going to criticise at least get your facts straight first.
  6. Inruin
    He is also getting old and struggled to finish games towards the end of the season. From the outside looking in Kearney has set a pretty good culture with the team he has. Does he need an old stager like Marshall coming in to that environment?

    Why does he have to explain why they have been left out?
      brightman likes this.
    1. Play The Ball
      As a supporter I want to know. Rank your Kiwi halves in order for me as of ability right now - I bet Marshall features in the top 3 (assuming SJ is not available). I totally understand that Kearney clearly wants to build for the future but at the expense of taking no senior halves at all?? What if Foran is ruled out? What then? It appears there is more to it than just form. Same with JWH. I'm not saying Kearney's wrong to leave them out - but I think fans deserve to hear the (true) reasoning.
  7. Play The Ball
    I agree mate - but Kearney owes it to the people that support this team to explain why two guys that would appear to be in better form than others are getting picked.
    I get blooding young players, particularly on this tour but they need at least three halves - Foran is one, a youngster like Nikorima or Tui can be the second but surely Marshall would add something given the absence of Johnson?
      tajhay likes this.
  8. Inruin
    I get your points with JWH and Benji. Though it is also worth noting that the players that are there now warrant selection based on their performance as well. My perception of JWH is a bit of a disrupting force at times. I also think its time to move on from Benji and look to the future. Picking him would be an easy choice but short sighted. Blooding a future player makes more sense to me.
      brightman likes this.