Warriors' coach Stephen Kearney has instructed his CEO Cameron George to refrain from speaking out on football matters, in response to George's recent comments on the lack of effort among some members of the playing group.
In the wake of the Warriors dismal 42-6 defeat to the Roosters last Sunday, which effectively their finals hopes for 2019, George told Radio Sport that the output of some players across the season had been well below par.
The CEO also said several players were under the microscope, but the fact they were already on contract for next season was a mitigating fact.
It was an unusual admission from a CEO, and Kearney sent a not-so-subtle message on Friday.
"I don't think it is a good idea for us to be to-ing and fro-ing and playing that out in the media," said Kearney. "My personal opinion is that that's my job to do that. He's the CEO of the footy club but when we are talking about the footy team and the effort of individuals that is my responsibility to make individuals aware of that."
Kearney said he had no advance warning of George's intention to speak out, and was surprised at the comments.
"I've seen the headline and I didn't bother reading the rest of it," said Kearney of the article espousing George's views. "I just thought that's my position in terms of the coach to be making comments about the players.
Kearney, who has been based in Australia with his team this week, as they stayed on after the Roosters game, confirmed he had spoken to George since his comments were aired and made the demarcation of responsibilities clear.
He also defended the squad, saying their performances over the last two months had been mostly solid.
"If you look at last weekend, there might have been some occasions during the period of that game where that could have been the case (lack of effort)," said Kearney.
"But over the course of the last nine weeks, we've had two occasions where we haven't taken our best performance to the footy ground…that's against Canberra and the Roosters.
"Prior to that I thought we had made some really good progress, but again, in this competition, that's not acceptable. We need to make sure we are putting in the effort this week."
On one level some of George comments' could have been interpreted as backing Kearney – shifting the main onus of responsibility from the coach and onto the playing group, but the tension at Mt Smart is understandable.
It's been a season that has disappointing on several levels.
Few players have improved on their 2018 output and only a handful could be judged as having performed up to their potential.
The Warriors have flopped at home, with only two wins from nine games at their Penrose base, and overall managed just two victories against top eight opposition.
And the damage done by the manner of Shaun Johnson exit's continues to linger in the background.
Those themes will be brought up again this weekend, as the Warriors face Johnson's Sharks on Saturday evening.
The corresponding clash four weeks ago saw one of best displays of the season from the Auckland team, as they overcame several injuries and a couple of dubious refereeing calls to prevail 19-18 in the capital.