NEWCASTLE’S Garth Brennan said an invitation to work with New Zealand’s World Cup rugby league squad was an opportunity “too good to knock back”.
Brennan, the former Knights’ National Youth Competition coach, still lives in Stockton but has spent the past six years coaching Penrith’s lower grades, firstly their under-20s and most recently their NSW Cup outfit, winning premierships with both.
He has been included as an assistant to Kiwis’ head coach, David Kidwell, for the World Cup, while another Knights tactician, Brian Smith, has accepted the role of New Zealand’s technical advisor.
“I’ve known David Kidwell for a while, from coaching against him in the under-20s, and also me and Brian Smith go back a fair way, so I think he put my name forward,’’ Brennan said.
“Kiddy gave me a call and it went from there.’’
Another prominent Novocastrian, Michael Hagan, will be team manager of Mal Meninga’s Australian team.
Brennan said he had been looking forward to a family holiday at the end of the season but would instead be spending seven weeks in camp with the Kiwis.
“I’d had a bit of interest from other nations regarding the World Cup, and I didn’t really consider it,’’ Brennan said.
“But to be involved with a tier-one nation like New Zealand and get to work with the calibre of players they have available, it’s a great opportunity and my wife was very understanding.
"To be involved with a tier-one nation like New Zealand ... it’s a great opportunity."- GARTH BRENNAN
“We agreed I had to go for it.”
Brennan said the experience of working with the Kiwis would only “benefit me as as a coach, and who knows where it will take me from there”.
His ultimate goal is to become a head coach in the NRL and there is speculation he will be on the shortlist for the position at Gold Coast, who controversially sacked Neil Henry on Monday.
Kidwell said "Brian's record speaks for itself” and Brennan boasted an impressive CV in his own right.
He was the first coach to take Newcastle’s under-20 team to the finals, in 2011, was named NYC coach of the year in 2012, won an NYC premiership in 2013 and then the NSW Cup grand final in 2014.
"Garth has been talked about for some years, but it's tough for these guys to find a first-grade coaching spot, there is so much competition for places,’’ Kidwell said.
"Despite that, I know he will offer us a lot. He has proven over many years that he can relate to the young players to get the best out of them and I am confident that he will be an asset to our coaching group."
The Kiwis’ campaign kicks off in Auckland on October 28 when they play Samoa.