A coaching rivalry that began seven years ago in the National Youth League has led to Garth Brennan joining David Kidwell’s staff for New Zealand’s Rugby League World Cup campaign.
Brennan, who has been touted as a candidate for the vacant Gold Coast job following the sacking of Neil Henry on Monday, will work alongside Brian Smith to assist Kidwell in a new look coaching set up for the World Cup.
The highly-regarded Penrith Intrust Super Premiership (NSW Cup) mentor worked under Smith at Newcastle before taking charge of the Knights NYC team when the Under 20s competition began in 2010 and pitted wits against Kidwell, who was starting out in the coaching ranks with South Sydney.
The pair continued their rivalry after Brennan joined the Panthers in 2012 and Kidwell moved to Wests Tigers the following year as assistant to Jason Taylor following a stint with Melbourne.
“I have known Dave for a while, I have coached against him over the years and we have met up a few times after games or I have seen him at football,” Brennan said.
“He was at Souths and I was at Newcastle. Then when he was assistant coach at Wests Tigers and I was at the Panthers we used to run into each other at games. I found him a really nice guy and I am looking forward to working with him and helping him out where possible.”
Brennan also has a long association with Kiwis star Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and a number of other New Zealand players at the Panthers, whom he guided to premierships in the NYC in 2013 and NSW Cup in 2014.
“I have coached Dallin since he was 16 years of age so I have had a great association with Dallin, we have a great relationship and he is a lovely boy,” Brennan said.
“Obviously in my time at Penrith I have been involved with the likes of Dean Whare and also James Fisher-Harris and Corey Harawira-Naera have come through my systems as well. If they are successful enough to make the Kiwis it that would be great.”
The former police officer, who also coached NSW Origin captain Boyd Cordner in Under 16s at Newcastle, said he was excited about the opportunity to be involved with New Zealand at the World Cup.
“It is an honour and I am really looking forward to the chance to be involved with a national team and especially one that is as proud and as passionate as the Kiwis are,” Brennan said.
“I love the Polynesian and the Kiwi culture, they have got such a massive influence on the game these days and some of the closest guys I have worked with and are friends with away from football are Kiwis or pacific islanders.
“I feel like I understand their culture very well but I am looking forward to learning a bit more about it as well.”
Brennan has previously been linked to NRL jobs and Matthew Johns publicly pushed his claims after Henry’s sacking by the Titans.
“Garth Brennan is absolutely outstanding as a coach, he is very like a Trent Robinson-type of coach,” he said on his Monday Night With Matty Johns program on Fox Sports.
Kidwell agrees with Johns and the likes of Phil Gould and Ivan Cleary that Brennan is an NRL coach in waiting and said he was pleased to having him on his staff for the World Cup.
“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.”
Smith, who has coached more than 600 NRL matches, has been appointed to the role of Kiwis technical advisor,
“Brian’s record speaks for itself,” Kidwell said. “He has played first grade, and coached in the NRL and UK Super League. He also coached NSW Country, so knows what’s required to bring players together from their clubs for short campaigns."