Rugby league: Coaching legend Wayne Bennett eyes NZ Kiwis job after departure of Michael Maguire

Rugby league legend Wayne Bennett has thrown his name into contention to take over the NZ Kiwis coaching role, with the early departure of Michael Maguire.

After guiding New Zealand to their biggest win over Australia - 30-0 in the Pacific Championship final at Hamilton - Maguire has walked away from international league to take charge of New South Wales in State of Origin next year.

As NZ Rugby League begins its search for a replacement, Bennett has told News Corp he would consider the job, if approached.

Wayne Bennett and Michael Maguire go head to head in 2018.
Wayne Bennett and Michael Maguire go head to head in 2018. Photo credit: Photosport

"I'm not retired yet, so if the Kiwis are interested, I'm certainly open to it," he said. "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, 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, 73, will finish as inaugural coach of the NRL expansion Dolphins at the end of 2024, which could dovetail into the Kiwis's next Pacific Championship campaign.

His credentials are unquestioned, with NRL premierships in charge of Brisbane Broncos and St George Dragons, State of Origin success with Queensland, and international stints with Australia, England and Great Britain.

Ironically, Bennett was in charge of the Kangaroos, when they suffered their previous biggest defeat to the Kiwis, 24-0 in the 2005 Tri-Nations.

NZRL chief executive Greg Peters has cast the bet far and wide for a new Kiwis coach, but insists there is no real rush for an appointment.

"We’ll make the right decision in time and I would anticipate that we'd like to see something settled early next year," he said. "Our priority is to have the best coach and that should always be the foremost aim.

"Yes, we'd love to have a Kiwi coach, no doubt about it, but you'd also like a coach who has coached at the highest level and that's the challenge, because we're not inundated with Kiwis throughout the NRL that have got head coaching positions."

Peters has responded to Bennett's comments.

"The board hasn’t considered process yet, but we will be advertising the position soon and expect significant interest in what is one of the top coaching positions in world rugby league," he told Newshub.

"We won't be commenting on specific individuals who may put their hand up as the process evolves, but welcome the interest."