Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

NRL: Kearney calls for calm over Warriors

Stephen Kearney, Kiwis coach and Broncos assistant, has a unique insight on the Warriors. Photo / Getty
Stephen Kearney, Kiwis coach and Broncos assistant, has a unique insight on the Warriors. Photo / Getty

Stephen Kearney expects the Warriors to rebound this weekend - and says critics of the Auckland team have pushed the "panic button" too early.

The reaction to their Warriors' surprise 34-26 loss to the Tigers has been fierce, with many pundits slating the team for their timid, error ridden display.

But Kearney, who has a unique insight as both Kiwis coach and Broncos assistant coach, is calling for some perspective. He points out that the Broncos were beaten 36-6 by the Rabbitohs to open the season last year, before going on to have their best campaign since 2006.

"It's round one," Kearney told Radio Sport. "The panic button has been hit a bit too prematurely there. The Roosters, who have won three [consecutive] preliminary finals, got beaten last weekend by 40-odd points. I know the calibre of the players in the Warriors team and I expect nothing short of their best performance this weekend."

Of course, Kearney would be reluctant to criticize the Warriors; there are so many of his Kiwi players at the Mt Smart club, and in his Broncos role he is too smart to offer any ammunition to the opposition ahead of a game.

But he seems genuine in his belief that the Warriors will improve, starting tomorrow.

"We are under no illusions that off the back of the criticism last week they will come out very determined and ready for a real challenge," said Kearney. "We're expecting that."

Aside from the porous defence, another big issue from last Saturday was the lack of cohesion and spark from the Warriors new all-star spine, with Shaun Johnson, Issac Luke and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck well below their best.

"It's always going to take a little bit of time to get used to each other and you can't replicate that at training," said Kearney. "It's only when you are under pressure in game situations. They'll be better for the experience [and] you could see they were better in the second half. I'm sure they will start to hit their straps soon - I just hope it is not on Friday night."

Asked about Graham Lowe's assertions about the Warriors 'bro culture', Kearney was reluctant to comment.

"I'm not going to give that too much life," said Kearney. "I'm not 100 per cent sure what that is myself so I am not going to put any energy into it."

Kearney also confirmed his intention to stick with Simon Mannering as Kiwis captain, even though the back rower has stepped down as skipper at the Warriors.

"It doesn't change my way of thinking and his leadership role with the team. It's two different circumstances. His role with the group won't change. "

- NZ Herald

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