The Warriors big name recruits have helped improve the club's culture but there's one man keeping a low profile who has played a big part in the team's transformation.

The addition of experienced players Adam Blair, Tohu Harris, Blake Green and Peta Hiku have bolstered the side, and new high-performance guru Alex Corvo has raised the player's fitness levels, but the input of leadership consultant Jamie Pennell has helped improve their mental fortitude.

Pennell stands out at Warriors training in his civilian clothes and sunglasses, but despite his lack of team attire he is immersed in the side's development and can be regularly seen conferring with coach Stephen Kearney and independently addressing the side's senior leaders.

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The 42-year-old's 20-year military career has equipped him with strong knowledge of how an effective team should function and he is working and challenging the club's staff and players to improve their leadership and communication skills and drive their own culture.

"I'm definitely hands on," Pennell said. "Just talking to them and seeing where they're at and providing information and developing them as leaders, so actually creating and developing a strong culture that will be the base for them to leverage off and perform.

"They've taken on board everything that I'm teaching them and they've been applying out on the field and I think you can see that."

Pennell observes as teh Warriors go through their paces at training. Photo / NZ Herald Jason Oxenham.
Pennell observes as teh Warriors go through their paces at training. Photo / NZ Herald Jason Oxenham.

Pennell's work with the Warriors comes after he was involved with the Kiwis during last year's disastrous World Cup campaign - hardly a glowing endorsement of his talents when considering the team's on-field results.

However, the likes of Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, former skipper Simon Mannering, and Warriors general manager of football and former Kiwis assistant coach Brian Smith were highly impressed by his skills and ability.

"The truth is there was a lot of good work done in that camp and with that group of guys," Smith explained.

"If you spoke to any one of the staff members or playing members of that group you would find, I am 100 per cent certain, that they were all super impressed with the work that Jamie headed up for us.

"It takes a special type of person to be able to link closely and develop an affinity with a footy club, and Jamie has done that particularly well."


Kearney has been reluctant to discuss Pennell's role in detail and dismisses theories attributing the side's progress to one individual or particular area of their training.

It is understood Pennell's position as an outsider allows him to critique and advise even Kearney on how he can more effectively deliver messages and better relate to his players.

"He's helping us formalise and coordinate the structure to build a culture," Kearney said. "But there's lots of parts to it, it's not one thing, but he helps formalise that."

Pennell agrees, saying the side's progress is multi-faceted, with his methods complimenting the added experience the side's new recruits have brought to the club, and together with Corvo's demanding training methods, further assist the growth in the players mental toughness.

"Everyone just adds to the mix," he said.

"Definitely Alex, his training is tough and he'll put another layer on top where they actually have to dig down a little bit deeper to get out of those dark spaces.

"I've seen that on the field numerous times, where he uses his physical training expertise to build that mental resilience, as you'd see in the military as well.

"But it all adds to the mix, the theory side, the practical side, what I'm doing, and it's working well."

Mannering has seen plenty of trends come and go throughout his 280 game career, but is convinced Pennell is making a positive impact and offering a fresh perspective.

"It's always good to have someone from a different environment," Mannering said.

"He'd be the first to tell you he doesn't know a hell of a lot about league, but he knows a lot about cultures and team environments so he's been really good for us."

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