Interim NZ Warriors coach Todd Payten has quashed claims the team needs a complete rebuild under Nathan Brown, who is expected to be announced as the club's new coach for next season on Saturday.
Brown, who worked at the Warriors earlier this year before the coronavirus pandemic, is set to be unveiled on a three-year deal alongside Phil Gould, who will join the club in a consultant role.
When Stephen Kearney was sacked in June Brown was favourite to take over, but he ruled himself out of contention. He has since had a chance of heart after a lengthy chat with Warriors chief executive Cameron George.
Many felt the signing of Brown was an indication that the Warriors are looking at rebuilding after he helped overhaul the playing roster in his last head coaching role at the Newcastle Knights between 2016-19, but Payten insists that's far from the truth.
When asked of Brown's impending appointment after the Warriors' gutsy 26-22 win over the Manly Sea Eagles, Payten said the players are aware and that it is "good news for the club".
"I don't think they need a rebuild," says Payten. "No way.
"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.
"Tonight we had a new halves combination and it wasn't perfect but it was good enough."
The Warriors' win over the Sea Eagles saw them claim back-to-back wins for the first time since May 2019, after last weekend's win over the Wests Tigers.
The Warriors raced out to a 16-0 lead after 15 minutes and spent a quarter of the game with 12 men after Karl Lawton and Jack Hetherington were sin-binned in the first and second halves respectively.
"We've been talking small steps in the right direction," says Payten.
"Our defence and efforts have improved and the only time they scored is when we were down to 12 men and we were like that for 20 minutes
"It wasn't pretty but we found a way and we showed some care for our jersey.
"For a long time, we've been talking the talk and tonight we finally walked, it so that makes me happy and proud as a coach.
"I'm proud of the group of me we have here in Australia representing the club."
The Warriors will be without loan player Hetherington next week as they face his parent club, the Penrith Panthers, who are unbeaten in their last seven games.
Hetherington is also likely to be charged by the NRL's Match Review Committee for his sin-bin offence during the win over Manly.
Earlier this season, the Panthers beat the Warriors 26-0, but the Warriors have improved immensely under Payten since then.
Join us at 8pm Friday for live updates of the NZ Warriors v Penirth Panthers NRL clash