When you think of support for a coach, you think it would come from within the club, or a friend of the new coach, but opposition player and fellow New Zealander and Wests Tigers five-eighth Benji Marshall, has paid Stephen Kearney the ultimate compliment.

Marshall believes that Kearney will down the track, join the coaching elite of Wayne Bennett and Tim Sheens as “one of the legends of the game”.

Whilst Kearney is yet to officially coach an NRL match yet, Marshall believes that his tactics and nature will just be some of the factors that will see the Eels as legitimate premiership contenders in 2011.

”In my opinion, he has a great future as a coach and he will become one of the legends of the game,” Marshall said.

”I’ve been coached by Wayne Bennett and Tim Sheens, two of the greatest in the game, and I definitely think he’s got what it takes to get to that level and have the same respect as those guys.

”He’s proved he’s more than capable with the Kiwi team in the World Cup and the Four Nations last year.

”His strengths are that he knows how to get the best out of players. Some of the Islanders find it hard when they get a kick in the bum, they need to be nursed through. He’s good at picking out personalities and picking who needs a kick up the bum and who needs a pat on the back.

”The thing that impresses me the most is how he does a lot of video work and how he observes what the other team is doing.”

Marshall, who was worked closely with Kearney in the New Zealand team, the pair which are responsible for masterminding World Cup and Four Nations victory for New Zealand.

”I think he will be a very good coach,” Bennett said.

”He’s a young coach with lots of energy, good discipline and he cares about his players. He’ll go great. Caring about players isn’t the whole key, but it’s certainly one of them. We still stay in contact, we have a good relationship. He does a great job. He’s done a great job with the Kiwis as Benji would have alluded to.

”He may well end up being one of the greats of the game. He’s got lots of wonderful qualities about him.”

Marshall added: ”When he speaks, everyone shuts up and listens. As the captain of the team he’s got great interaction with myself, talking about what’s best for the team. He’s very understanding and takes a lot on board. Away from football he gets along with everyone.”

Whilst Wayne Bennett received a lot more of the praise than Kearney did for the NZ victories, Marshall believes that Kearney deserves just as much praise for the effort he put into the wins.

”In the 2010 Four Nations everything was pretty much Steve Kearney. Wayne came in and talked to the boys once and Steve did all the hard work. Steve deserves all the credit.”

The Eels are ranked as outsiders to win the premiership in 2011, and with no heavy expectations on them, Marshall thinks that the Eels can become a premiership threat with Kearney as coach.

”He definitely changed the culture of New Zealand rugby league with his discipline,” Marshall said. ”I’m sure he could do the same at Parra and get the best out of them.”

By ricky

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