Kiwis want Bennett coaching discussion
After Wayne Bennett left the door open to the possibility of assuming a coaching role with the Kiwis next season, the New Zealand Rugby League have confirmed their interest in entering discussions with the veteran mentor.
The NZRL will conduct a review into the Kiwis' disastrous Rugby League World Cup campaign which ended in the quarter-finals, with coach David Kidwell unlikely to retain his post after winning just three of 10 games, a record which includes losses to second-tier nations Tonga and Fiji and a draw with Scotland.
Bennett has history with the New Zealand national side, having been a pivotal part of the Kiwis' 2008 World Cup victory as an assistant to then coach Stephen Kearney, and his current contract with England expires at the end of this season.
NZRL chief executive Alex Hayton told NRL.com that if Bennett is open to the idea, they will make the call to him.
"We certainly would do [talk to Bennett]. Obviously we are starting to go through a debrief process and look at going through the coaching process for next year," Hayton said.
"Certainly if Wayne is interested in being involved, and he was obviously a huge influence back in 2008, then we would certainly have a chat with him.
"We will go out to the market for the coaches, but obviously we will be talking to people as well."
Bennett this week gave a vague, "well yeah, who knows?" when asked if he was open to the idea of helping New Zealand, but said his previous stint with the Kiwis had reinvigorated his passion for international coaching.
"Right now I am working with England and happy to be there. But I enjoyed my time with the Kiwis, we had a great result, it was a great tournament. It's what brought me back this time to want to be part of it again."
A potential stumbling block to a Bennett return is the current NZRL policy which states the Kiwis coach must be a New Zealander, although that is expected to come under heavy scrutiny as part of the upcoming review, with results due out in January next year.
"I think [that policy] is part of the review that has to take place to make sure it fits with the direction the Kiwis need to be heading in," Hayton said.
"I think that's the discussion that needs to be had... I wouldn't want to be pre-judging what that outcome should be."
Should the Kiwis seek a home-grown mentor to fill the role, the leading candidates would appear to be former Kiwi captain Nathan Cayless, who is the current Junior Kiwis coach, or a return to Brian McClennan, who enjoyed success with the New Zealand side through the mid 2000s.