The front-runner one moment, out of the running the next and then - all of a sudden - the man stepping into the role.

It has been a whirlwind few weeks for former NRL coach Nathan Brown, who has been out of a full-time job since leaving the Newcastle Knights in August last year. But it seems his fortunes have taken a positive turn, with the New Zealand Warriors' head coaching job all but his.

Brown is reportedly set to be announced as the club's new mentor within the next 24 hours, bringing an end to a long and gruelling search for Stephen Kearney's successor.

Many suitors for the job came forward - including interim Warriors coach Todd Payten, the highly touted Ben and Shane Walker from Queensland, former Penrith and Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin, England coach Shaun Wane and Brown - who was brought into the Warriors in November last year as an assistant to Kearney.


The 47-year-old was cut from the club earlier this year as the financial chaos of the Covid-19 pandemic was felt at Mt Smart.

It had nothing to do with his coaching acumen, however, with CEO Cameron George in February explaining they expected Brown to inject new life into the club following a disappointing 2019 season.

It was a move that was heavily supported by Kearney and recruitment manager Peter O'Sullivan.

Despite withdrawing from the running last month, Nathan Brown is set to be revealed as the Warriors new coach. Photo / Getty Images
Despite withdrawing from the running last month, Nathan Brown is set to be revealed as the Warriors new coach. Photo / Getty Images

At the time George was also quick to shut down suggestions he could end up taking the top job should Kearney depart.

"He is not here for that at all," George said. "That's never even crossed my mind."

How times have changed.

In a surprising move Brown ruled himself out of the race to replace Kearney, who was axed after the Warriors' 40-12 defeat to the South Sydney Rabbitohs in June, saying he did not believe it was the right fit.

That left Payten as the favourite until the former NRL prop revealed this week that he had turned down an offer from George - and would be pursuing the North Queensland Cowboys coaching vacancy instead.


Brown confirmed to Australian media on Thursday night that he had been in discussions with the Warriors, only hours after it emerged that the former player, coach and renowned NRL broadcaster Phil Gould was set to join the club as an adviser.

"I'm a career coach, I love coaching," Brown told Triple M. "The [Warriors] recruitment officer Peter O'Sullivan is a good friend of mine and we speak quite often."

Brown's experience also counts for plenty, having been around the game since his NRL first-grade playing debut in 1993. He entered the coaching realms in 2003 with the St George Illawarra Dragons where he remained until 2008, before leading the Knights from 2016 until 2019, accumulating a total of 245 games as a mentor.

His time at the Dragons was a success for the most part, managing four finals appearances in six years, including being one win away from the NRL Grand Final in 2005.

Following six years in the UK Super League, Brown had to endure a difficult stretch in Newcastle. They copped the wooden spoon in his first two years and failed to make the finals the next two, despite having enough talent in the roster to contend with other top eight sides.

By the time he left the club his winning rate as an NRL coach dropped dramatically to 39.5 per cent, just 4.5 per cent better than Kearney's.


But drawn up from his time in the league and what he showed the Warriors before the pandemic, the club clearly believe Brown has what it takes to get them back into the winners circle. That will be no mean feat, given the club's dismal recent record - including a solitary finals appearance, four head coaches and a winning rate of just over 41 per cent since 2012.