Wigan legend Bell helps hunt for next Kiwi coach

Dean Bell pictured being presented with a scroll to mark his induction into Wigan RLFC's Hall of Fame by Joe Egan
Dean Bell pictured being presented with a scroll to mark his induction into Wigan RLFC's Hall of Fame by Joe Egan

Former Wigan favourite Dean Bell will lead the search for the next New Zealand coach.

Bell, 55, who played 253 matches for Wigan during their trophy-filled years from 1986-94 and coached Leeds at the start of Super League, will chair a four-strong panel which will interview candidates and make a recommendation to the NZRL board.

He is joined on the panel by former Kiwis coach Frank Endacott, who coached in Super League with Wigan and Widnes, ex-Wakefield forward Monty Betham and former New Zealand women’s captain and coach Waimarama Taumaunu.

The panel was appointed following a review of the Kiwis’ disappointing World Cup in which they failed to reach the last four.

David Kidwell’s contract expired at the end of the tournament and the NZRL has changed the rules to allow the appointment of an overseas coach.

Former New South Wales coach Laurie Daley has already been linked with the job, while Des Hasler and ex-Wigan and Souths boss Michael Maguire are also on the market.

Bell, who won 26 caps from 1983-89, said: “With the depth of rugby league talent the Kiwis have at their disposal, we should be challenging the best international sides, including Australia, and achieving consistent success.

“I’ve already spoken with other members of the panel and as a group we’re determined to support the NZRL in moving on from the issues raised in the review of the last World Cup campaign.

“We need to make sure that Test football is given the status it deserves.”

Applications close on April 6 with the successful coach’s first assignment the mid-season Test against England in Denver on June 23.

That international has been given the go-ahead by the two countries but has yet to receive the backing of NRL clubs concerned about the travel and difficulties associated with playing at high altitude at the Mile High Stadium.

“The Test has been scheduled in the internationally agreed window, so we’re now just working with the clubs in Australia to ensure we put the best possible team on the field,” said NZRL chairman Reon Edwards.