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

NRL: I was ready to walk away from Warriors - Andrew McFadden

Andrew McFadden is remaining with the Warriors under new coach Stephen Kearney. Photo / photosport.nz
Andrew McFadden is remaining with the Warriors under new coach Stephen Kearney. Photo / photosport.nz

Andrew McFadden says he knew his fate as Warriors coach was sealed after the 36-24 loss to the Tigers in the penultimate match of the season.

A few days after that match, which ended the club's finals hopes for 2016, McFadden met with managing director Jim Doyle in a cafe near Mt Smart.

It was a robust discussion, when the former coach admitted his tenure was probably over.

"I let Jim know I thought it was probably time and he said he tended to agree," said McFadden. "There were lengthy discussions. I knew a whole heap of stuff had to transpire so I wasn't sure what would happen but I knew I was pretty vulnerable."

The final-round defeat to the Eels did nothing to help his cause but by then the wheels were already well in motion. Last Thursday, McFadden was told officially he would be relieved of his head coach position, and Doyle asked him to fly to Brisbane.

"I got on a plane with Jim [last] Friday," said McFadden. "He told me he wanted to bring Stephen in and wanted me to go and meet him."

McFadden and Kearney had a lengthy chat over breakfast at a Brisbane hotel, discussing how the arrangement might work.

"Stephen was open to the idea from the start," said McFadden. "He just needed him to be comfortable that I would have his back, given my situation. I assured him I as was comfortable and so was he."

After almost three seasons as the man in charge, McFadden admits it feels strange to be no longer at the helm of the Mt Smart club.

"It does feel a bit strange. I felt I had made a bit of progress. It's still a bit raw if I think about how we performed over the last month, but we will have to live with that bitter feeling for some time yet."

In another way, though, the demotion has come at the right time.

"It's a timely one," said McFadden. "With a young family, I'll enjoy the fact there will be a little bit less stress. There is also some relief that I can go back and put the attention on the group. I've always enjoyed that side of the job, working with the players and improving them and their skills. You don't get that chance as a head coach, especially here as a lot of things pull you away."

McFadden also admitted he would have walked away, if not for the ongoing support of the players.

"If I didn't feel the players wanted me to be here and have them coaching them, then I wouldn't have been interested in staying. That was the key for me."

Warriors owner Eric Watson said he was sure McFadden would rebound from this experience and be a head coach one day. The 38-year-old still retains those ambitions, but is happy at Mt Smart for now.

"I have become very attached to the club and the city," said McFadden. "We love it here as a family. It's great experience for us. [I have no idea] how long I will be here. You can never tell in football but there is still work to do."

- NZ Herald

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