22 Jun 2020

Questions loom large after Warriors axe Kearney

10:03 am on 22 June 2020

Why now? That's the question many league fans have been asking following the unexpected sacking of Warriors coach Stephen Kearney over the weekend.

Stephen Kearney

Stephen Kearney Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Hours after the Warriors big loss to Souths, Kearney was told by club management that his services were no longer required.

It has led to suggestions that some players may quit the club and return home.

It had been a far from ideal season for Kearney and the Warriors, the coronavirus and the need to indefinitely base themselves in Australia drew plenty of sympathy and support, but in the end it still came down to results... and 2 wins from 6 games just didn't cut it.

Warriors CEO Cameron George gave Kearney the news over the phone.

"He's only human, he certainly took it on the chin so to speak, but was shattered about the situation," George said.

Asked why Kearney was dismissed... George said "we've had a couple of challenging years and the owners want to look forward, there's no ideal time for a sacking but the clubs interests have to come first."

Kearney has been replaced in the mean time by assistant Todd Payten who admits everyone was rattled and upset when they heard the news adding that the atmosphere was like there had been a death in the family when Kearney stood up to speak to the players.

"There was some very upset individuals, Steve was quite upset as were many of us so it was a tough few hours, they're still processing it."

The former Warriors player Sione Faumuina labelled the dismissal as the worst decision the club has ever made, taking aim at owner Mark Robinson.

"If it was you I'm telling you that's the worst thing you could have done in this time because I know that if I was playing and that happened with everything that is going on, I'd want to come home now."

Todd Payten of the Warriors.

Todd Payten Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Kearney had been with the Warriors since 2017, they made the play-offs last year, their first post season appearance since 2011.

Payten says he hasn't given the full-time job any thought... although his career ambition is to be a head coach he's in no rush...

Payten, who played 259 NRL games with the Raiders, Roosters and Tigers before turing to coaching, joined the Warriors in 2018.

He says with just five days until their next game he'll be relying on the other coaches and the seniors players to get everyone back focussing on the competition.

"I'm going to lean on them quite considerably over the next little period, between them and myself we're going to have to drive the team forward and there are going to be some guys that are emotionally drained and it's just about getting them up for this weekend's game."

Payten said he couldn't rule out some players considering pulling out of the campaign, such was the depth of feeling.

However one former Warriors coach believes player input may be one of the issues at the club.

Matt Elliott was sacked early in his second season with the club in 2014.

"There is a history of the playing group having some impact on decision making there and I guess the reality of the Warriors under performing, and I certainly have my own experience of that, is that the common denominator isn't coaching, so the organisation at some point needs to look at itself as an entirety," Elliott said.

Elliott says the Warriors need to develop a culture that is based entirely on winning.

A list of potential full-time replacements will fall into place soon... it probably won't be a long list and one of those on it could be former Newcastle mentor Nathan Brown who was a consultant with the Warriors late last year.