Warriors players and staff were distraught and in disbelief when they heard the news their coach, Stephen Kearney, had been sacked and that fill-in manager Todd Payten wouldn’t rule out some players returning to New Zealand.
Payten said the mood in the Warriors camp was like “a death in the family” and mentioned that players were “rattled” when Kearney told them his fate, having received a phone call from CEO Cameron George at 9:30am on Saturday after a 40-12 loss to South Sydney.
Todd was shocked and labelled this their greatest challenge since moving to Australia in early May without their families and friends, enabling the NRL to play with all 16 clubs.
Payten has always wanted to be an NRL coach but wasn’t sure if he wanted to raise his hand and take over from Kearney full-time. However, he said that he spoke CEO George and will open the position to find the best replacement possible.
There are lots of coaches out there that can take over the Warriors next season in Trent Barrett, Wayne Bennett, Craig Bellamy and Geoff Toovey, who are my main four, with someone like a Nathan Brown, recently sacked from the Knights, also in the running.
The Warriors should be better with the likes of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Ken Maumalo, Peta Hiku and the experienced Blake Green and Adam Blair on the playing list.
In 2017 the Warriors finished 13th. In 2018 they made the finals after marvellous performances from Shaun Johnson but were knocked out in Week 1. They finished 13th again last season and lost Shaun Johnson in the process.
The Warriors have managed only two wins from six rounds, with a 37-26 win over the Cowboys in Round 5 and an 18-0 win over the Dragons in Round 3, but after a concerning 40-12 loss to Souths and after multiple disappointing seasons the Warriors CEO thought it was time for Kearney to go.
I do feel for him, though. He gave up everything to move to Australia in May and has a bunch of superstars who sometimes underperform. Whether it’s his fault or that of the players, no-one will know.
The players also gave him a farewell haka, but whether sacking Kearney right now was the right idea or not will be on show next Friday, when they will take on Cameron Smith’s Melbourne Storm, who recently suffered a 21-14 loss to Nathan Cleary’s Panthers.