Written by John Davidson
The axe fell on Warriors coach Stephen Kearney on Saturday.
It came as a shock to many in the rugby league world. Yes the Warriors had only won two of their six games this year, and were sitting 13th on the table. They had just gone down to South Sydney.
But their record in 2020 is the same as the Broncos, Dragons, Sharks and Cowboys, and better than the Dogs and Titans. And the Warriors had sacrificed a lot to play this season, being based in Tamworth then Terrigal because of the Coronavirus, more than any other team.
Kearney had done a lot to keep them together, committed and on the field.
It mattered not.
The 48-year-old, with a 41% winning percentage at Mt Smart Stadium, was out the door after just six rounds.
But if you think the Warriors’ problems begin and end with the former Hull FC, Melbourne Storm, Auckland and Wests forward, you’re wrong. The Warriors are the NRL’s sleeping giant that has never fully woken up.
Twenty-five years after they were created they are still searching for that maiden premiership. In their history they have reached just two grand finals, and won a solitary minor premiership. In 25 years they have only made the finals on eight occasions. For too long they have flattered to deceive.
With a whole country behind them and a massive talent pool at their disposal, the Warrior should be punching a lot higher. They should be one of the NRL’s heavyweights. But they are not and never have been.
Again and again they seem to get their recruitment wrong and seem unable, or unwilling, to keep hold of the best talent the Land of the Long White Cloud produces. If you look back at the Warriors’ Under-20s sides, fantastically talented teams, that won the competition in 2010, 2011 and 2014, while finishing second in 2013, little of those sides are left in Auckland.
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) June 20, 2020
Shaun Johnson went to Cronulla. Sosaia Feki also to the Sharks and now Super League. Then there’s Konrad Hurrell, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Tui Lolohea, Carlos Tuimavave, Elijiah Taylor, Albert Vete and Raymond Faitala-Mariner. All have been allowed to leave or cast aside.
At the same time over the years boom rookies have been poached from New Zealand to other clubs like Joseph Manu, the Bromwich brothers, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Brandon Smith, Jason Taumalolo, Steve Matai and Joe Tapine. All have gone on to represent the Kiwis, all could have been stars at the Warriors.
The Warriors have managed to entice Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Adam Blair, Tohu Harris and Kodi Nikorima back home. But it is not enough.
They need to improve their scouting and fix up their recruitment strategies. They to revamp their culture and fix their mentality. They need to fix their elite pathways up and sign up the best youngsters in the country. They need transform from a team with potential to one that competes consistently and challenges trophies.
Until they do all of that, changing the coach won’t make much of a difference.