Re-signed Warriors NRL coach Stephen Kearney fancies himself as a bit of a comedian but admits he often takes his job too seriously.

It's a habit — let's call it a near-obsessive intensity — he formed as a youngster and later carried towards training and matches throughout his club and international playing career.

A relentless work ethic is one of Kearney's strengths as a leader, but the 46-year-old admits there were times as a player when he could have taken the foot off the pedal and enjoyed his work more.

"When I was a young fella I probably didn't enjoy it as much," he said.


"I took the game a little bit too seriously."

Ahead of his third season in charge and days after signing a three-year extension that will keep him at the Warriors until the end of 2022, little has changed. Kearney is still letting the job consume him but wouldn't have it any other way.

"I probably do [need to enjoy coaching more]. But that's who I am and I don't let it beat me down. I've learned to live with that," he said.

However, behind his gruff exterior is a lighter side that isn't always apparent to the public — a dry wit no doubt honed during years spent living across the Tasman, where verbal jousting is almost a sport in itself.

The contrasting parts of his personality have had a positive effect on club morale. He enjoys ribbing his players and football staff — Tohu Harris, Peta Hiku and even assistant coach and good friend Stacey Jones are frequent targets — but his jokes are always well received.

"That's why I do think I'm a bit of a comedian. That's probably my release, in terms of building a connection with the individuals, connections with the staff. That probably balances things out in the sense of trying to enjoy myself."

On arriving at the Warriors at the end of 2016, Kearney made it his mission to improve the club's culture. Much like his former mentors, hardnosed veteran Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy and former Brisbane icon turned Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett, he has developed a fatherly relationship with many of his squad.

The players respect him and accept nothing less than their full commitment will be accepted, but know he cares about them as much as he does about winning.


Encouraging them to become more rounded individuals is tied to his goals of improving the side's fifth-tackle options and try-line defence.

"To get the opportunity to work with young men and help them not only try and be better footballers but be better people, I enjoy that part of the job.

"I think I've got an awareness of the standard and expectation that it takes to be a successful footy player. I think I know what it looks like and I try to marry both of them.

"So I guess that's my [coaching] style in a sense and I've got some really good people around me that help me with the technical side of things."

And while the NRL is battling an image crisis after a nightmare off-season of poor player behaviour, the standards Kearney has set and atmosphere of accountability he has fostered, has helped keep the Warriors off the front pages.

"That's what really drives the boys," explained captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.

"The way that he pushes the boys to be the best on and off the field, that's one of the best parts of him.

"[Kearney's re-signing] gives the boys clarity. We've already got good connections with him, so he's here for a long time [and] the boys can continue to plan their journey and head in the right direction."

Ahead of today's second and final trial game against Wests Tigers in Whangarei, Kearney remains focused on the side's long-term success: "I'm looking forward to working hard to get what everyone at the footy club wants and that's making a successful, consistent footy club. That's my number one priority."