Last night’s league test was a horribly one sided affair. The result means four losses on the trot against Australia, and one win out six overall in tests for Coach David Kidwell. There was of course a draw as well, but as it involved Scotland, it’s hardly a career highlight.
Kidwell has no head coaching record at the senior level of the game. He was Assistant Coach at both the Storm and the Tigers before becoming assistance to Stephen Kearney at the Kiwis. Then, midway through a short apprenticeship – boom! Congratulations David. You’ve got the Head Coach job for your country.
It should never have happened. Kidwell was – and is – nowhere near ready.
David Kidwell’s Kiwi coaching tenure is starting to resemble that of Gary Kemble’s, who was also hopelessly out of his depth. After a disastrous few months in charge after the resignation of Brian MacLennan, it took a coup from some of the playing roster (involving, ironically, Kidwell as a ringleader) to bring the NZRL to its senses and end Kemble’s very short reign. But instead of learning from the basic error of appointing a coach with virtually no experience, it appears that history may be repeating.
Kidwell’s inexperience was laid bare before this test. During an interview on Radio Sport where discussion centred on the Kiwis not meeting their obligations on the promotional front, Kidwell said the following:
“That’s something that you learn, you learn as you get in there, and I haven’t had much time in the job so I thought this is the way it’s done.”
“I looked at Stephen Kearney and that’s the way he had done it so I thought that’s the way you needed to be”.
In other words, Kidwell is completely and utterly lost in the role.
To help him, the NZRL has decided to try and bring in the Cowboys’ Paul Green to assist. But that will leave them in the ridiculous position where the assistant has won an NRL Premiership, coached 90 First Grade games and won a World Club Challenge, whilst the Head Coach is yet to coach a single game in First Grade.
This current debacle is not solely David Kidwell’s doing. The NZRL were hardly blessed with options when it came to appointing someone to replace Stephen Kearney in September – the names bandied around as candidates as a potential replacement were, to be blunt, dire.
However, at the time, it felt as though Kidwell had simply been anointed as successor simply because he had been in the environment.
The obvious way around it for the NZRL would have been to appoint Kidwell as caretaker to take the Kiwis through to the 2016 Four Nations tournament, and take their time to hunt high and low for a successor to Kearney. But they rushed Kidwell into position before he was ready and they are now paying the price.
It is probably too late to change prior to this year’s World Cup, and if it all turns to custard at that tournament – and it certainly could – the knives will be well and truly out for the NZRL.
The playing squad is good enough to at least compete. Yet, one of the factors in last night’s loss was the difference in defensive line speed between the two sides – it didn’t take a rocket scientist to identify that, however, it didn’t improve at all during the game. This suggests it either went unnoticed by Kidwell, or his players weren’t listening.
If it is a case of the players choosing to ignore David Kidwell, then he has lost respect already. And if the coach has lost respect, the NZRL needs to be very, very careful. In that situation, even the captain and a senior player could potentially get up to all sorts of mischief outside a Canberra nightclub.
Follow me here on Twitter