SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 04: Eels players Luke Burt, Nathan Hindmarsh, and Nathan Cayless stand for the National Anthem prior to the 2009 NRL Grand Final match between the Parramatta Eels and the Melbourne Storm at ANZ Stadium on October 4, 2009 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Former New Zealand Kiwis captain Nathan Cayless has emerged as the early favourite to take the coaching reigns from Michael Maguire.

Wide World of Sports has revealed that Cayless is the early frontrunner for the Kiwis' head coaching job despite a push for Wayne Bennett and Stacey Jones to coach the national team.

A former captain of the Kiwis, Cayless played over 250 NRL games for the Parramatta Eels and made 39 caps for New Zealand.

Since retiring as a player, he has held a coaching apprenticeship in the lower grades with the Tigers and Eels and is currently the coach of the New Zealand 'A' squad.

If he is selected as the new national team coach, it will be his biggest coaching gig to date and will see him replace Michael Maguire, who has become the new NSW Blues after leading the Kiwis in the Pacific Championships and emerging as the victor.

Dolphins Training Session
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 24: Coach Wayne Bennett talks to his players during a Dolphins NRL training session at Kayo Stadium on January 24, 2023 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

The surprising news came after Bennett revealed he was interested in replacing Michael Maguire as the new head coach of the New Zealand Kiwis.

“I'm not retired yet so if the Kiwis are interested, I'm certainly open to it,” Bennett, told News Corp.

“I've got a history with New Zealand. I was involved with the All Golds team (in 2007), that was a great experience, we had a tour of England and I was coach of the team.

“I've also worked with Steve Kearney (former Kiwis coach) when he was coaching the Kiwis and they won the World Cup in 2008 with Steve in charge.

“I have great affection for the Kiwis, I coach several of their guys at the Dolphins in the (Jesse and Kenny) Bromwich boys and Jamayne Isaako.

“The door is certainly open for me. If it's an option for the New Zealand Rugby League, they know where to find me.”

During his 36-year coaching career, Bennett has previously coached at the international level for Australia and England, as well as the Kiwis in 2007.

Unfortunately, his tenure for New Zealand only saw him win two out of six games with a winning percentage of 33 per cent - a fact that many would easily forget.

He coached the Kangaroos in two separate stints - 1998 and 2004-05 - and won 12 out of a possible 16 games. His time as England's coach saw him with a winning percentage of 67 per cent after taking control of the team from 2016-20.

New Zealand Rugby League CEO Greg Peters indicated to the publication that the national team's board were prepared to look at every avenue for their next coach and undergo a comprehensive process.

This includes that all candidates will be eligible and that appointing only Kiwi-born coaches wasn't part of the board's criteria.