Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Stephen Kearney: 'It's about creating the right culture'

If Stephen Kearney is going to lead the Warriors to the promised land, success will be built on creating the strongest possible culture at the club.

He stressed today that his immediate focus is on Friday's elimination final against the Cowboys - Kearney is Broncos assistant - but he gave a brief insight into his priorities at Mt Smart.

"It is about creating an environment that helps the players realise their potential," he said. "It's about creating a culture which demands that. That will be my primary focus; a culture that demands a very high expectation, a culture that demands a high expectation on how we live, the way we train and the way we perform."

It's nothing new for a Warriors coach, as most of the previous men in charge have emphasised fixing and re-building the culture as the ultimate priority. Unfortunately, only Daniel Anderson and Ivan Cleary have succeeded. Andrew McFadden made some progress in that area, but couldn't achieve the results on the field.

Kearney will be the Warriors' 11th head coach in their 23rd season next year. Kearney is well equipped to try to bring success to a club that has underachieved. His success with the Kiwis was based on creating the strongest possible team ethos and environment, with character valued as highly as talent. He's taken a strong stand with individuals who wouldn't conform, and not been afraid to make tough selection calls. Kearney has also witnessed first hand the work of Craig Bellamy and Wayne Bennett and learned from a harsh NRL initiation at the Eels.

"I feel I am ready," Kearney said. "I'm very excited about the opportunity. Everybody recognises the potential [the Warriors] have."

It's been a long time coming. A player in 1997 and 1998, Kearney was linked with the Warriors' coaching job in 2012 but decided the time wasn't right to throw his hat in the ring.

"I wasn't ready," said Kearney. "Since then I have had four years at Brisbane, which has been a wonderful experience."

The Warriors appointment also ends Kearney's long tenure with the Kiwis.

"It was a very challenging decision [but] I wanted to make that group better and I am comfortable I achieved what I had set out to do."

Kearney's NRL head coach experience is limited to 42 games at the Eels - Parramatta won 10 of those - but Warriors managing director Jim Doyle said the decision was not a gamble.

"I don't think it is a risk at all," said Doyle. "Stephen had a go at Parramatta in the past. I think that was wrong time, wrong place. Like most of us, we tend to learn more from adversity than we do with success. Stephen has learned a lot from that time. He's had a lot of success with the Kiwis [and] has worked with a lot of our boys before.

"He was our first choice. We had various options in front of us, but he was the No 1 candidate."

Playing record

Position: Backrower
264 NRL games, 37 tries
Clubs: Western Suburbs, Sydney: 1992 to 1994, 46 appearances
Auckland Warriors: 1995-1998, 79 appearances
Melbourne Storm: 1999 to 2004, 1 premiership (1999), 139 appearances
Hull (England): 2005: 1 Challenge Cup win, 29 appearances

Kiwis: 1993 to 2004
Test caps: 44 (second in history), 9 tries

Kiwis record

Kiwis: 43 tests, 24 wins, 1 draw, 18 losses, 55.81% success rate
2008 World Cup beating Australia 34-20 in the final
2010 Kiwis defeat Australia in Four Nations final
2014 Kiwis win their second Four Nations title

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