Andrew McFadden adjusts to role as Warriors assistant

Andrew McFadden (left) and coach Stephen Kearney at Warriors pre-season training session. Photo/Photosport
Andrew McFadden (left) and coach Stephen Kearney at Warriors pre-season training session. Photo/Photosport

Former NZ Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden admits his demotion to assistant has been "weird", but insists the club is better for it, heading into the 2017 NRL season.

McFadden lost his top job at the end of last year, after compiling a 28-win/34-loss record with the Auckland-based franchise over two seasons.

He was replaced by Kiwis legend Stephen Kearney, who had to step down as NZ national coach to take the appointment, but McFadden has found a valuable role in Kearney's staff.

Ironically, McFadden was named as Kearney's Kiwis assistant for the 2014 Anzac Test, but had to withdraw when he replaced Matthew Elliott as Warriors head coach.

This was a partnership that was fated to happen.

"It has been a bit weird, there's no doubt about that," McFadden told Radio Sport's Tony Veitch. "But in terms of the work, it has been an easy transition.

"I've been an assistant coach before, so I know how it works. It's a much more simplified role, and that makes it easy to come to work and have a very narrow focus.

"It's important that I've got a really open mind, when I come into this. I had the opportunity as a coach, it didn't work out - it certainly didn't meet my expectations - so I'm happy to sit here and take in some other ideas."

It has been a measure of the man that McFadden seems to have slid into his support role so willingly and it helps that Kearney brings a culture of success on the international stage, winning the 2008 World Cup, two Four Nations crowns and the 2015 Anzac Test.

There are still questions over Kearney's ability to sustain an NRL club campaign over an entire season, after his 10-31 record with the Parramatta Eels, but McFadden believes his appointment has been good for the Warriors.

"I think the club is in good shape and I most definitely think Stephen Kearney is the right man," he told Veitch. "He certainly knows what he wants and that makes it easy for the players to know what their expectations are.

"There were certainly [issues] about attitude, but I don't think it applies here anymore. I think the group has a good attitude and it's more about belief now - certainly, that's the message from Steve.

"It can't be that we hope we can do well, we've got to believe it and the way we do that is to prepare well. We have to be professional at all times.

"This group is motivated and we've got to build the belief in each other."

McFadden points to a playing group that has changed very little over the off-season, apart from the introduction of Kieran Foran, and many of the younger players have a better understanding of what's required at this level.

"The guys we've blooded in the last few years - the Sam Lisones, the Albert Vetes, the Solomone Katas - are not young kids any more. They've got 50 games under their belts.

"They can walk into pre-season this year and they feel like first-graders. There's certainly a different vibe around that.

"The group knows each other pretty well, and that allows us to get some continuity and some belief in each other."

McFadden says questions marks over Foran's availability, while the club awaits NRL approval for his transfer, have not proved a distraction.

"Believe it or not, it's not massively concerning for us. We can't really control that.

"We know it's there and we're very hopeful it will all pan out, because Kieran has been doing a great job. From our perspective, hopefully, it's just a formality that we have to go through."

The Kiwis half endured an horrific 2016 campaign, during which he wrangled with former club Manly, broke up with his partner, suffered a season-ending shoulder injury and eventually walked away from a lucrative contract with the troubled Eels.

"Obviously, he has had some personal issues, but the one thing that has been solid for him is footy," said McFadden. "He is coming back from injury, but as he gets closer to full fitness, I can see him engaging more with the group and you can see he has a smile on his face.

"He's a competitive little bugger and that's important for us."

- NZ Herald

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