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Todd Payten insists the Warriors don’t need a rebuild and claims likely successor Nathan Brown will take over a roster only a few big names short of being finals ready.
The New Zealand-based club are expected to announce Brown as their 2021 coach and Phil Gould a consultant within days, after Payten knocked back the top job last week.
The interim coach all but confirmed the deal was done on Friday night, admitting his players were across the situation given it had been widely reported since Thursday.
Brown led Newcastle’s rebuild in his four years at the club, and at the time of his exit conceded that would likely be his role at whatever team he took over next.
But after winning two straight games for the first time in 15 months on Friday night, Payten insisted his roster had the makings of a team who could push for their first finals win in eight years.
“I don’t think they need a rebuild. No way,” Payten said.
“We’re probably one or two positions away in terms of adding to our squad that will make us a finals team.
“That’s a tough middle forward, preferably big and skilful, and a strike centre.
“Around that we’ve got some pretty handy players. (Against Manly) we had a new halves combination and it wasn’t perfect but it was good enough.”
Brown’s appointment will at least give some certainty to a group of players who did not know who would lead them in 2021 since Stephen Kearney’s sacking in June.
A third of the Warriors’ squad remain unsigned for next year, leaving Brown, Gould and management with plenty of decisions to make.
Gould meanwhile is expected to play some role in junior development, with the club having leaked too many young Kiwi talents to the other 15 NRL clubs in the past.
“I think they (the players) know (it’s happening), it’s out, it’s public,” Payten said.
“Whether that helped (against Manly) I can’t quantify that but it’s good news for the club.”
Meanwhile the Warriors are now just two wins outside of the top eight, in finals contention despite a year where most have been focused on their sacrifices for the game.
Missing players who have returned to New Zealand and with three loan players, the Warriors sit above five other teams on the NRL ladder.
“We haven’t mentioned finals,” Payten said.
“I’ve tipped them up over the past three weeks that we’re turning into a decent footy team. There’s belief there.
“Jack Hetherington’s been really vocal since he’s been here around the ability. He feels like he’s in a good environment full of good footy players.”