NZRL applauds Kearney's Eels' appointment

New Zealand Rugby League chief executive Jim Doyle today congratulated Kiwi coach Stephen Kearney on his appointment as Parramatta’s new coach for the 2011 NRL season.

Kearney, 38, has finished up in his position as Melbourne assistant coach and signed with the Eels until the end of the 2013 season replacing departed former New Zealand, Vodafone Warriors and St Helens coach Daniel Anderson.

Kearney, who played 45 Tests from 1993-2004, has created history by becoming the first former New Zealand Test player – and Kiwi captain – taken on as head coach by an Australian club in a competition which started in 1908 (Bill Kelly, coach at a number of Sydney clubs in the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s, was a Kiwi but never played in a Test for New Zealand).

He’s the first New Zealander appointed to coach an Australian-based first-grade side since ex- Kiwi coach Graham Lowe joined Manly in 1990. Kelly, Lowe and now Kearney are the only New Zealanders appointed to coach Australian clubs in the competition.

“It’s a tremendous honour for Stephen and also for rugby league in New Zealand generally. We’re delighted for him,” said Doyle.

“We always believed Stephen would graduate to become a head coach in the NRL sooner rather than later.

“Last year we extended his contract as Kiwi coach to the end of 2013 World Cup and said we would welcome it should he have the chance to become a head coach.

“Stephen has our full support in coaching both the Kiwis and Parramatta.”

Appointed Kiwi coach in 2008, Kearney guided the Kiwis to unprecedented glory when they beat the Kangaroos 34-20 to win the Rugby League World Cup in his first year in the position.

Kearney said it gave him great confidence having the NZRL’s unqualified support as he took his coaching career to a new level.

“Coaching the Kiwis has played a huge part in my growth as a coach,” he said.

“I’m really comforted in knowing the New Zealand Rugby League has given its backing for me to continue to coach the Kiwis as well as taking on a new role with Parramatta.

“While I have a new job with much greater responsibility, I am as committed as ever to doing all I can to help New Zealand’s development at international level. I am and always will be passionate about my country.”

Kearney was in Auckland yesterday to name the 23-man Kiwi squad for a one-off Test against Samoa on October 16 and the Four Nations to follow with matches against England in Wellington (October 23), Papua New Guinea (October 30) and Australia at Eden Park in Auckland (November 6).

“This will be my prime focus for the next five weeks as we strive to reach the Four Nations final,” he said.

Kearney will link with the Kiwis when the squad and management team assemble in Auckland on Saturday.

Since taking over as Kiwi coach in 2008, Kearney has guided New Zealand in 13 Tests for a record of seven wins, a draw and five losses.