Rugby league: War of words erupts over supercoach Wayne Bennett's NZ Kiwis aspirations

Australian rugby league boss Peter V'landys has taken a shot at supercoach Wayne Bennett - and the NZ Kiwis - over his aspirations to extend his vast CV across the Tasman.

Bennett, 74, has confirmed his interest in the Kiwis head-coaching role left vacant, when Michael Maguire accepted the New South Wales State of Origin appointment last November, and NZ Rugby League seems poised to interview him as one of the frontrunners for the job.

V'landys, who chairs the Australian Rugby League Commission, has been caustic in his reaction, when interviewed on Triple M radio.

Peter V'landys, the triumphant Kiwis and Wayne Bennett.
Peter V'landys, the triumphant Kiwis and Wayne Bennett. Photo credit: Getty Images

"I don't know why Wayne wants to get on a loser," he said. "He's normally a winning coach, why would he want to go and coach against Australia?"

V'landys may have had a tongue in cheek during his comments, especially since the Maguire-coached Kiwis inflicted a record 30-0 defeat on the world champion Kangaroos, when they last met in the inaugural Pacific Championship final at Hamilton in November.

NZ Rugby League has fired back, via Twitter, asking: "Umm, 30-0 alg?"

Currently coaching the Brisbane-based Dolphins, Bennett has told Newscorp of his formal application for the Kiwis job, after assisting rookie head coach Stephen Kearney to the 2008 World Cup crown.

"I've expressed interest in the job, yes," he said. "I've spoken to the NZRL and I'm waiting for them to come back to me.

"This doesn't mean I've got the job. There will be other applicants, but the point is I have expressed interest, the NZRL know that and they have a process going on, so I'm sure they will get back to me at some stage."

NZRL chief executive Greg Peters has confirmed interest in Bennett.

"We are certainly interested in talking to Wayne, as well as a number of other candidates who have put their name down through the advertised process we ran," said Peters. "We have to finalise that in the next few weeks, we hope. 

"I haven't spoken to Wayne personally, yet. We're in the application process and we’re going through an interview panel stage shortly, but we certainly know Wayne's interest in the organisation, so we’re looking forward to talking to him."

Bennett has an extensive record of success at all levels of rugby league, including seven NRL championships with Brisbane Broncos (six) and St George Dragons, and five winning Origin series for Queensland.

Ironically, he also guided Australia to their previous worst defeat to New Zealand - 24-0 during the 2005 Tri-Nations - as well as a 34-0 whitewash in 2018 as England coach and a winless four-test tour of Tonga, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea in 2019.