Kearney must be applauded for backing McFadden stance

Stephen Kearney
Stephen Kearney

NEW Zealand may be the No.1 rugby league-playing nation, as well as the reigning World Cup and Four Nations champions, but Lady Luck certainly hasn't been shining on the Kiwis of late.

Yet that has not prevented coach Stephen Kearney from displaying an honourable strength of character and moral support. And the support is for a fellow coach, not the players who have performed for him at international level in the past.

Despite a spate of injuries to key and experienced personnel, the New Zealand national coach has overlooked for Friday night's Test with the Kangaroos the six errant Warriors who had a much-publicised night on the tiles last week. No doubt two of them - Manu Vatuvei and Ben Matulino - would have been front runners.

The big-name pair was part of a sextet that decided on their return from a 42-nil thrashing in Melbourne on Anzac Day that a night out in Auckland was acceptable behaviour. Turning up late for a team meeting the following day was also apparently okay for a couple of the unruly six.

But it certainly wasn't okay for under-fire Warriors coach Andrew McFadden, who dumped four of them - Vatuvei, Matulino, Bodene Thompson and Sam Lisone - to join the other two - Albert Vete and Konrad Hurrell - to reserve grade.

And the conduct of the players wasn't okay for Kearney either.

Vatuvei, who has played 29 Tests for the Kiwis and is still one of the most-feared wingers in the game, received the red pen treatment when the Kiwis Test team was named yesterday. And so did Matulino (23 Tests), while the other four names - although considered at best fringe selection chances - were nowhere to be seen.

It was a sign of support by Kearney for the embattled Warriors coach, for the Warriors management and also for the code in general. And - although I might be drawing a long bow - it may also have been a salute to rookie Queensland coach Kevin Walters.

Kearney and Walters served on the Broncos support staff last year and no doubt the Kiwi coach felt for his little mate when earlier in the year Walters disqualified eight members of Queensland's emerging Origin squad from the 2016 series. They too hit the night life, and failed to meet team standards.

With the Kiwis recently grabbing from Australia the mantle as No.1 for the first time since the late-'70s and last year beating the Kangaroos in three successive Tests following a 62-year drought, Kearney had plenty of reason to name his best available combination for Friday night.

After all, skipper Simon Mannering as well as aces Kieran Foran and Roger Tuivasa-Scheck were unavailable.

Hopefully his strength of character doesn't come back to bite him too hard.

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