NRL 2020: Phil Gould to dedicate 'virtually every waking hour' to NZ Warriors

Rugby league guru Phil Gould has a straightforward answer to exactly how much he intends investing in his new role as an advisor with the NZ Warriors.

Last week, the Warriors confirmed the 62-year-old - alongside new coach Nathan Brown - had signed on as a consultant with the Auckland-based NRL side for a position that Gould insists will be nothing short of a full time commitment.

"Virtually every waking hour from now will be dedicated towards the Warriors and their future," Gould says.

"That's the job I've been given, that's what my passion is. There won't be a moment where I won't be thinking of ways we can do things and improve.

"The basic answer is whatever it takes will be my sort of workload in this area."

At the top of Gould's list of priorities is developing young Warriors talent, keeping them with the club and providing them with pathways to play first-grade.

Gould will look to establish a model similar to the one used so successfully at the Penrith Panthers, where the focus was on nurturing the players within the club's system, as well as tapping into the wider NSW region. 

"That's really important to the long term sustainability and success to any club," Gould insists.

"What we're seeing in the NRL at the moment is… the team's that are competitive on a weekly basis are the ones who have actually invested in their own future and development over the years.

"If you want good value in your salary cap, if you want to build a culture within your club where people are joined together in a common cause and love playing for their club… then I think you have something special, and the Warriors are very keen to go down that path."

"It will be exciting to see whether we can adapt those sorts of philosophies to the New Zealand situation and their own development programmes.

"Hopefully the perspective of the Warriors within NZ is so strong that kids want to grow up and be a  Warrior."

Establishing that stable culture is critical to the team's brand and its perception both in NZ and across the Tasman, particularly for emerging talent and marquee free agents, Gould adds.

"That's going to be very important, not only to the development of players and the attraction for players to come to the Warriors, but also commercially for the club as well.

"It's something you can't let up on. You don't just get one good crop of players and say 'we're alright for a while'. It's a continual thing. 

"The Warriors are in a perfect position to do that. There is obviously a lot of great football talent over there in New Zealand. Quite clearly rugby is her major sport of there, but the Warriors have a very important place in the sporting landscape of New Zealand and they want the country to be proud of them."

The genesis of Gould's opportunity with the Warriors came during the NRL season suspension, when he had been advising New Zealand Rugby League on its strategic commercial plans in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Aware of that growing relationship, Warriors chief executive Cameron George approached Gould "out of the blue" with the offer of a more permanent position with his franchise.

"We really only had a couple of discussions," Gould recalls. 

"It didn't take many conversations for me to say 'yes okay let's do this. It's an exciting challenge and I'm really looking forward to it."

Over the next 12 months, Gould aims to spend as much time as possible in New Zealand to familiarise himself with the current structure within the club and its wider network with rugby league nationwide.

Although border restrictions will likely limit those opportunities, Gould insists he's willing to quarantine to carry out those "missions of discovery".

"If it means initially that I have to come and go into quarantine and that's necessary, then that's what I'll have to do."

Gould also has a "great" long standing relationship with new coach Brown, and believes he's the ideal candidate for the job.

"It's a wonderful appointment for the Warriors.

"He's the perfect coach for the Warriors right at this time. He's personable and loves developing players through to the top grade, so I think it'll be a nice combination."

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