Veteran coach Wayne Bennett has said he’s interested in taking charge of the Kiwis, if New Zealand Rugby League make the first move.
Following Michael Maguire quitting the Kiwis job last week to take charge of the NSW Blues State of Origin team, the NZRL will soon embark on the process to find his successor.
The 73-year-old Bennett, who has been involved with the Kiwis in the past, told News Corp in Australia that he’d be keen on the job.
“I’m not retired yet so if the Kiwis are interested, I’m certainly open to it,” Bennett told News Corp.
“I’ve got a history with New Zealand. I was involved with the All Golds team (in 2007), that was a great experience, we had a tour of England and I was coach of the team.
“I’ve also worked with Steve Kearney (former Kiwis coach) when he was coaching the Kiwis and they won the World Cup in 2008 with Steve in charge.
“I have great affection for the Kiwis, I coach several of their guys at the Dolphins in the (Jesse and Kenny) Bromwich boys and Jamayne Isaako.
“The door is certainly open for me. If it’s an option for the New Zealand Rugby League, they know where to find me.”
Bennett will step down as Dolphins head coach at the end of next season, allowing Kristian Woolf to take the top job at the club.
The two favourites to be the next coach of the Kiwis are Stacey Jones and Nathan Cayless, but it could be possible for either of them to work alongside Bennett through to the 2026 World Cup, as Jones and Cayless both have limited experience in being a head coach at the top level of the game.
Willie Poching, who returned to New Zealand earlier this year, could also be a contender.
The former Kiwi international had a long stint as an assistant coach for a number of Super League clubs in England and up until his move back to New Zealand was head coach for Wakefield Trinity.
NZRL CEO Greg Peters told Stuff last month that there’s no need to rush to find a coach for the team, however it’s likely coaches will need to apply for the job, rather than be shoulder-tapped.
“We haven’t determined a timeline,” Peters said.
“We’re coming up to Christmas, it’s not like we’ve got a replacement ready to go right now. We want to run a process to see who might be interested in the role.”
“There is no immediate rush, because unfortunately, we don’t play again until October. We want to get the right person and the right structures around that person is important.”
Although there will be pressure to appoint a New Zealander as the next coach of the Kiwis, Peters said the current thinking is to get the best person for the job, regardless of where they come from.
“We want the best coach,” Peters said.
“That’s the policy and unless the board changes that policy as part of this process, that’s the current policy.”