sport

Kearney re-apppointed by Kiwis

Stephen Kearney has beaten off competition from Glen Morrison, David Kidwell and Richie Blackmore and been re-appointed as head coach of New Zealand.

Kearney, whose contract ended after the Kiwis' World Cup final defeat by Australia in November, was invited to re-apply for the post.

After being named on a four-man short-list that included Dewsbury's Australian coach Morrison, he was given two more years in the job, with a right of renewal through to the next World Cup in 2017.

"Stephen was the strongest candidate and presented his vision for the Kiwis strongly and passionately," said NZRL chief executive Phil Holden. "He really impressed the panel and demonstrated that he was the right man for the job.

"We've invested heavily in Stephen's development at this level and, generally, we feel he's elevated the programme significantly since taking over.

"We expect him to continue that progress and a two-year term will give us a chance to see how we're tracking towards the next tournament, while also allowing us to put some focused resource and support around him to ensure that he succeeds.

"This process has helped identify some future candidates in succession planning, and helped Stephen to really look hard at his own performance and how he can improve that going forward."

Morrison, in his first full season at Championship club Dewsbury, was interviewed via Skype after making the last four along with former Kiwi internationals Kidwell and Blackmore.

Ups and downs

Under Kearney, New Zealand won the 2008 World Cup and the 2010 Four Nations competition but were outplayed 34-2 by the Kangaroos at in last year's final at Old Trafford.

After reviewing the campaign, the NZRL has stopped short of blaming the misuse of prescription medication for that defeat.

During the campaign, the Kiwis management warned several players for mixing sleeping pills and energy drinks as a recovery practice in a manner that had left some unable to function at 100 percent afterwards.

"We're very concerned at the health risks involved in this practice and the players involved probably aren't even aware of the risk they are putting themselves at," Holden continued.

"Their behaviour certainly divided the group and, in some cases, probably affected how individual players recovered from games, so it was definitely a factor.

"But we can't in, all honesty, say it cost us the World Cup title - that would be disrespectful to an Australian side that deserve to rank among the all-time greats."

The NRL has set up a taskforce on the issue, with NZRL represented by high performance manager Tony Iro. Clubs are now considering greater controls over the issue of sleeping pills to players.