NRL 2020: NZ Warriors coach Stephen Kearney defends lack of recruitment

Stephen Kearney says the club is taking its time to fill their final roster spot.
Stephen Kearney says the club is taking its time to fill their final roster spot. Photo credit: Getty

NZ Warriors coach Stephen Kearney is defending the lack of reinforcements to his squad for his fourth season in charge of the squad. 

So far, former Penrith hooker Wayde Egan is the only new face in the Auckland-based club that finished 13th and four points outside a top-eight playoff spot last year.

The Warriors still have one more roster spot to fill for the upcoming season and Kearney doesn't want to make a rushed decision, something he admits the club has been guilty of in the past. 

New owner Mark Robinson has put everyone at the club on notice and another disappointing season would likely see mass changes made. 

The Warriors returned to pre-season training this week and Kearney remains confident he has a team that will compete for a spot in the playoffs. 

"As a footy club, we've been guilty in the past of making panic decisions in the recruitment area, so we're very measured on who we want to bring in," Kearney told Trackside Radio.  

Last season, the Warriors suffered a series of close losses and an extra-time draw with the Brisbane Broncos that cost them on the points table.

"We just need to be better," says Kearney. "We weren't at our best for parts of the year, and it showed with those losses and the draw. 

"We've made adjustments to our programme, adjustments to our game and we believe these will help us get those results."  

One of the biggest talking points for the new season is the Warriors' halves combination. 

Veteran Blake Green, who has one year left on his contract, will likely occupy the No.7 jersey, while Kodi Nikorima and Chanel Harris-Tavita will battle for the five-eighth spot. 

Kearney plans to start Nikorima alongside Green, but knows how quickly things can change. 

"At this stage, Nikorima will be [starting]. I know he had a couple of test matches at hooker and he could end up at dummy-half, but my intention is battling it out in the halves. 

"[Chanel] is tracking along well. When the second year comes around, the opposition do know more about you, which will be challenging for him." 

Off the field, the Warriors have recruited club legend Simon Mannering in a part-time coaching and mentoring role with the club.

Kearney feels the addition of Mannering will be key for the Warriors. 

"Simon is the most decorated player we've had at the club, he's the ultimate professional. He wasn't blessed with talent, but he had an appetite for working hard and led by example.

"Our leadership group will need continual development and Simon will play a role with that. 

"We have a team competing in the SG Ball Cup [Under 18s] competition, so he'll have some involvement in that too."

The Warriors will have pre-season matches against Melbourne Storm in Palmerston North and Wests Tigers in Rotorua in February, before their season opener on March 14 against the Newcastle Knights.