Ideas and changes brought to unlock success

By Wynne Gray

Coaching the Warriors carried plenty of quandaries for Stephen Kearney.

He had to rise above the modest results and chart new schemes, different strategies and strong plans if the club was going to move from paper talk to a National Rugby League menace.

Encouraging forecasts accompanied the side through the past five seasons before they faded to 14th, 11th, 9th, 13th and 10th.


Kearney needed ideas and artillery to stop the rot and make an impact, and chief executive Jim Doyle was in the market for suggestions.

Tweaks have come in the coaching group and if the NRL agrees on his return to the game, a fit Kieran Foran is a classy playing addition. Signing Melbourne forward Tohu Harris for next year is another sign of the backroom industry.

All that is theory, part of the what-if conjecture which is an every year jumble in the sports world. What Kearney, the Warriors and their fans want is success this season.

When Kearney evaluated his squad during their off-season training, he was refining plans he thought would carry the Warriors to sustained success instead of a roller-coaster graph of results.

He was gauging his squad, getting to know players he'd rarely worked with, checking on progress from those he knew well and sorting the best combinations to fit his plans.

Ryan Hoffman was the incumbent Warriors captain, a hard-working second-rower who had played with Kearney at the Storm and had been coached by him at the same club.

Hoffman was a reliable forward who kept churning out good numbers but was in the later stages of his career. He was off contract at the end of this season and the Warriors were not going to sign him again.

Was there an upside in appealing to the squad to reward Hoffman with a final strong season or was it time to take a new stance?

Those who discussed a change nominated a bunch of candidates without settling confidently on anyone in particular and certainly not mentioning Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in that list.

Kearney chose to change captains as another way of further turning up the flame on the players. He could have reinstated his trusted Kiwi leader Simon Mannering or looked at Shaun Johnson, Issac Luke, Ben Matulino or Jacob Lillyman.

All the alternatives were best left to concentrate on raising their personal performances and delivering, as Mannering has done as he closes within three of Stacey Jones' club record 261 games.

In the Warriors' 23rd season, Kearney settled on some numerical symmetry, with the 23-year-old Tuivasa-Sheck the new commander and Mannering as his right-hand adviser. Tuivasa-Sheck's experience at captaining sides was minimal but he led by his deeds. He had won a premiership in 2013 with the Roosters and, after 91 games in five campaigns for the Roosters and Warriors, he had enough experience.

He'd learned alongside Anthony Minichiello, who'd set all sorts of records at fullback for the Roosters while also captaining them. Tuivasa-Sheck has played with stacks of NRL stars where he'd seen their success and noted their social fallibilities.

Before a knee injury nailed him last year, Tuivasa-Sheck showed he could cut it with fullback stars Greg Inglis, Jarryd Hayne and Billy Slater. The Samoa-born, Otahuhu-raised RTS was the future.

In conversation, he is a polite young man. On the field, he is a menace, and now he and the Warriors have to bridge those traits with some strong direction for the club.