New Zealand rugby league coach Stephen Kearney has refused to join in the debate over whether assistant Wayne Bennett should remain on with the Kiwis after the World Cup.
Former Kiwi test player Matthew Ridge said in a newspaper column that he had welcomed Bennett’s appointment in a mentoring role, but it was now time for Kearney to stand on his own two feet.
Asked about Ridge’s view, Kearney replied: “It’s not worth commenting on, really.”
He added: “Thankfully he’s not making the decisions.”
Fullback Lance Hohaia said Ridge was entitled to his opinion, but he backed the retention of Bennett if the former Kangaroo and Queensland coach, a six-time premiership winner with Brisbane, wanted to stay involved with the Kiwis.
“I’ve loved having Wayne in the camp and I’m sure if he wants to stay on and be involved in the Kiwis, he will be more than welcome,” he said.
“He’s a great guy and a great coach and I’ve learnt a lot off him in the five weeks I’m been involved with him.”
Hohaia said Kearney and Bennett had slightly contrasting styles and they complemented each other well.
“Steve has just come out of the game and he’s a relatively new coach and Wayne has been around since the dinosaurs,” he said.
“I think they work well together.”
Ridge said the Kiwis were in disarray when Kearney took over from Gary Kemble this year and strong leadership and experience was needed.
However, the time had come for Bennett and the Kiwis to part ways and Ridge argued for an all-New Zealand coaching staff.